Monitoring the effects of zoning on coral reefs and their associated fish communities in the GBR Marine Park

Hugh Sweatman 100dpi
Led by: Dr Hugh Sweatman, AIMS


Project Summary

This project describes the activities of the AIMS long-term program to monitor the effects of zoning on coral reef communities in the period July-October 2015.

  • In that period there will be one survey trip (out of four made annually) to the southern GBR (Capricorn-Bunker and Swain Reefs) using the RV Cape Ferguson.
  • As well as forming part of the long-term program, these reefs are interesting as they are recovering from the effects of severe storms, notably TC Hamish in 2009.
  • Initial findings will be reported to stakeholder via a “Survey update”, with more comprehensive reporting when surveys of reefs in all regions are complete. (June 2016).


Problem Statements


Spatial management of human activities through zoning is the principal form of management of the GBRMP. This project continues a program that monitors the effects of zoning, particularly closure to fishing, on coral reef communities of the GBR Marine Park. The program was established following the rezoning of the GBRMP in 2004. A recent survey of fish assemblages in 87 MPAs around the world considered that effects of past fishing were still evident after more than 10 years.

How Research Addresses Problem

Continuing this program will give a quantitative assessment of the effectiveness of this fundamental form of management as fish populations rebuild, will show the effects of acute natural disturbances (cyclones, bleaching) and, if the current wave of Acanthaster outbreaks follows the previous pattern, will provide a robust assessment of any in the frequency of outbreaks on open and no-take reefs. This proposal covers the first of 5 fieldtrips (made every other year) which will survey selected reef pairs Capricorn-Bunker and Swain reefs.


Project Keywords

No-take zones; MPA networks; Coral trout; Biodiversity; Disturbance.


Project Funding

This project is jointly funded through AIMS and the Australian Government’s National Environmental Science Programme.


Project Publications
NESP TWQ Project 3.7 Final Report Cov
Final Report