SYDNEY, Nov. 9 (Xinhua) -- Commonly-fished species of fish are up to five times as prominent in protected areas of the Great Barrier Reef, a national Australian study has found.
The study, compiled by researchers from the University of Queensland, University of Western Australia (UWA), Curtin University, University of Technology Sydney (UTS) and University of Melbourne, found that protected areas can make a big difference even in lightly-fished areas.
The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park contains both "no-fishing" and "no-entry" zones as well as areas where fishing is allowed.
Researchers surveyed the biomass of frequently-fished species across 31 sites in the park as well as studying the seabed habitat at those sites.
They found that the fish population was up to five times greater in the protected zones.
It was also discovered that northern sites were home to more fish than southern ones regardless of the fishing policy, leading researchers to speculate that poaching in the southern sites is a common practice.
"Even in remote reef habitats, marine reserves increase the biomass of exploited fish but detecting these benefits can be challenging because the state of corals also varies across some management zones and these patterns also affect fishes," Carolina Castro-Sanguino, the leader of the study from the University of Queensland, said in a media release on Thursday.
"We also conclude that fishing is most intense near reserve borders leading to a reduction of biomass just outside reserves."
The team was unable to distinguish a difference between the impact of "no-take" and "no-entry" policies due to seabed habitats having a strong effect on the number of fish in an area.
People are banned from venturing into "no-entry" areas whereas they are allowed in "no-take" zones but fishing in any form is banned.