Densities of macrobenthic invertebrates and macro-algae in four Tasmanian ‘no-take’ marine protected areas (MPAs) were monitored annually for 10 years following MPA establishment, with changes compared to those at external (fished) reference locations. Fishing substantially influenced the population characteristics of many species, including altering the mean size and abundance of rock lobsters and the abundance of prey species such as urchins and abalone. Strong declines in abundances of purple urchins and abalone within the largest MPA at Maria Island indicate likely indirect effects related to protection of predators from fishing. The two smallest MPAs (ca. 1 km coastal span) generated few detectable changes. Our results affirm the importance of long-term monitoring and the value of MPAs, when sufficiently large, as reference areas for determining and understanding ecosystem effects of fishing in the absence of historical baseline data.
Barrett Neville S, Colin D. Buxton, Graham J.Edgar
Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology