UNIVERSITY of WA scientists say their studies indicate there could be greater tourism, education and research value if all catches stopped at the Reef Fish Habitat Protection Area in Cottesloe.
“New Zealand’s first sanctuary established in 1976 at Leigh now brings about 375,000 visitors a year, bus loads of school children for education, and about $18 million a year to the local economy that once just relied on commercial fishing,” the university’s Oceans Institute lecturer Tim Langlois said.
A rock lobster researcher, Dr Langlois said populations of the crustacean and prized fish such as whiting in small no-fishing sanctuaries at Rottnest demonstrated why Cottesloe should consider making its reef system a no-fishing area.
“Experience in Rottnest and New Zealand has shown the Rotto ones could be too small, and you do not want to break up habitats and risk getting the full benefits,” he said.
He said his 2018 study found 10-year-old sanctuaries were “highly” supported by rod and line fishermen in Australia and New Zealand.
Recreational fishing-only zones, like New Zealand’s Poor Knight’s Islands, had not shown an increase in fish until 1999 when a total ban was brought in at that site, and catch-and-release still killed some fish and affected the behaviour of others.
He said New Zealand snorkelers now swim among “friendly” pink snapper and other offshore species, whose population and sizes are greater than before sanctuaries were created.
In 2017, institute PhD student Todd Bond used a stereo camera developed in Australia to accurately measure fish in three sanctuaries in Brazil, and compare them with those in unprotected waters.
“In the sanctuaries the fish are larger, friendlier, more numerous and have different behaviours,” Mr Bond said.
The Brazilian research is at the peer-review website PLoS One.