Northern Fisheries Center

Cairns, Australia

Northern Fisheries Center

Cairns, Australia
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Unsworth R.K.F.,University of Swansea | Collier C.J.,James Cook University | Henderson G.M.,University of Oxford | McKenzie L.J.,Northern Fisheries Center
Environmental Research Letters | Year: 2012

Highly productive tropical seagrasses often live adjacent to or among coral reefs and utilize large amounts of inorganic carbon. In this study, the effect of seagrass productivity on seawater carbonate chemistry and coral calcification was modelled on the basis of an analysis of published data. Published data (11 studies, 64 records) reveal that seagrass meadows in the Indo-Pacific have an 83% chance of being net autotrophic, resulting in an average net sink of 155gCm2yr1. The capacities for seagrass productivity were analysed using an empirical model to examine the effect on seawater carbonate chemistry. Our analyses indicate that increases in pH of up to 0.38 units, and Ωarag increases of 2.9 are possible in the presence of seagrass meadows (compared to their absence) with the precise values of these increases dependent on water residence time (tidal flushing) and water depth. In shallow water reef environments, Scleractinian coral calcification downstream of seagrass has the potential to be 18% greater than in an environment without seagrass. If this potential benefit to reef calcifiers is supported by further study it offers a potential tool in marine park management at a local scale. The applicability of this will depend upon local physical conditions as well as the spatial configuration of habitats, and the factors that influence their productivity. This novel study suggests that, in addition to their importance to fisheries, sediment stabilization and primary production, seagrass meadows may enhance coral reef resilience to future ocean acidification. © 2012 IOP Publishing Ltd.

Collier C.J.,James Cook University | Waycott M.,James Cook University | Waycott M.,University of Adelaide | McKenzie L.J.,Northern Fisheries Center
Ecological Indicators | Year: 2012

There is a world-wide trend for deteriorating water quality and light levels in the coastal zone, and this has been linked to declines in seagrass abundance. Localized management of seagrass meadow health requires that water quality guidelines for meeting seagrass growth requirements are available. Tropical seagrass meadows are diverse and can be highly dynamic and we have used this dynamism to identify light thresholds in multi-specific meadows dominated by Halodule uninervis in the northern Great Barrier Reef, Australia. Seagrass cover was measured at ∼3 month intervals from 2008 to 2011 at three sites: Magnetic Island (MI) Dunk Island (DI) and Green Island (GI). Photosynthetically active radiation was continuously measured within the seagrass canopy, and three light metrics were derived. Complete seagrass loss occurred at MI and DI and at these sites changes in seagrass cover were correlated with the three light metrics. Mean daily irradiance (I d) above 5 and 8.4 mol m -2 d -1 was associated with gains in seagrass at MI and DI, however a significant correlation (R = 0.649, p < 0.05) only occurred at MI. The second metric, percent of days below 3 mol m -2 d -1, correlated the most strongly (MI, R = -0.714, p < 0.01 and DI, R = -0.859, p = <0.001) with change in seagrass cover with 16-18% of days below 3 mol m -2 d -1 being associated with more than 50% seagrass loss. The third metric, the number of hours of light saturated irradiance (H sat) was calculated using literature-derived data on saturating irradiance (E k). H sat correlated well (R = 0.686, p < 0.01; and DI, R = 0.704, p < 0.05) with change in seagrass abundance, and was very consistent between the two sites as 4 H sat was associated with increases in seagrass abundance at both sites, and less than 4 H sat with more than 50% loss. At the third site (GI), small seasonal losses of seagrass quickly recovered during the growth season and the light metrics did not correlate (p > 0.05) with change in percent cover, except for I d which was always high, but correlated with change in seagrass cover. Although distinct light thresholds were observed, the departure from threshold values was also important. For example, light levels that are well below the thresholds resulted in more severe loss of seagrass than those just below the threshold. Environmental managers aiming to achieve optimal seagrass growth conditions can use these threshold light metrics as guidelines; however, other environmental conditions, including seasonally varying temperature and nutrient availability, will influence seagrass responses above and below these thresholds. © 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Rasheed M.A.,Northern Fisheries Center | Unsworth R.K.F.,University of South Wales
Marine Ecology Progress Series | Year: 2011

The long-term changes of tropical intertidal seagrass, mainly Halodule uninervis and Halophila ovalis meadows and their relationship to climate are poorly documented. Developing a greater understanding of the effects of climate on seagrass meadows is critical for estimating the effects of future climate change scenarios. Here we document the temporal dynamics of coastal intertidal seagrass in tropical northeast Australia over 16 yr of detailed monitoring. This study is the first to directly relate such change to long-term climate variability in the Indo-Pacific region and southern hemisphere. Regression modelling was used to relate seagrass biomass and meadow area measurements to climate data. The aboveground biomass and area of the meadow were correlated with the interacting factors of air temperature, precipitation, daytime tidal exposure and freshwater runoff from nearby rivers. Elevated temperature and reduced flow from rivers were significantly correlated (R2 = 0.6, p < 0.001) with periods of lower seagrass biomass. Results of this study have important implications for the long-term viability of seagrasses with regard to climate change scenarios. Modelling of our findings indicates that future higher temperatures could be detrimental to Indo-Pacific intertidal, coastal and estuarine seagrass meadows. © Inter-Research 2011.

Unsworth R.K.,Northern Fisheries Center | Cullen L.C.,James Cook University
Conservation Letters | Year: 2010

Seagrass meadows are declining globally at an unprecedented rate, yet these valuable ecosystem service providers remain marginalized within many conservation agendas. In the Indo-Pacific, this is principally because marine conservation priorities do not recognize the economic and ecological value of the goods and services that seagrasses provide. Dependency on coastal marine resources in the Indo-Pacific for daily protein needs is high relative to other regions and has been found in some places to be up to 100%. Habitat loss therefore may have negative consequences for food security in the region. Whether seagrass resources comprise an important contribution to this dependency remains largely untested. Here, we assemble information sources from throughout the Indo-Pacific region that discuss shallow water fisheries, and examine the role of seagrass meadows in supporting production, both directly, and indirectly through process of habitat connectivity (e.g., nursery function and foraging areas). We find information to support the premise that seagrass meadows are important for fisheries production. They are important fishery areas, and they support the productivity and biodiversity of coral reefs. We argue the value of a different paradigm to the current consensus on marine conservation priorities within the Indo-Pacific that places seagrass conservation as a priority. ©2010 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Peel D.,CSIRO | Good N.M.,Northern Fisheries Center | Good N.M.,CSIRO
Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences | Year: 2011

Many fisheries worldwide have adopted vessel monitoring systems (VMS) for compliance purposes. An added benefit of these systems is that they collect a large amount of data on vessel locations at very fine spatial and temporal scales. This data can provide a wealth of information for stock assessment, research, and management. However, since most VMS implementations record vessel location at set time intervals with no regard to vessel activity, some methodology is required to determine which data records correspond to fishing activity. This paper describes a probabilistic approach, based on hidden Markov models (HMMs), to determine vessel activity. A HMM provides a natural framework for the problem and, by definition, models the intrinsic temporal correlation of the data. The paper describes the general approach that was developed and presents an example of this approach applied to the Queensland trawl fishery off the coast of eastern Australia. Finally, a simulation experiment is presented that compares the misallocation rates of the HMM approach with other approaches.

Grech A.,James Cook University | Grech A.,Northern Fisheries Center | Coles R.,Northern Fisheries Center | Marsh H.,James Cook University
Marine Policy | Year: 2011

Informing the management of coastal marine habitats at broad spatial scales is difficult because of the costs associated with collecting and analyzing ecological data at that scale. Spatially explicit assessments of the risk to coastal marine habitats from cumulative threats provide an alternative approach by identifying sites that are exposed to multiple anthropogenic threats at broad scales. In this study, qualitative measures of vulnerability were combined with geospatial data to evaluate the risk to coastal seagrasses at the scale of the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) region (~26,000km 2) of Queensland, Australia. The risk assessment outputs identified agricultural, urban and industrial runoff, and urban and port developments as the major anthropogenic activities threatening coastal seagrasses. 'Hot spots' with multiple threat exposure were all in industrial port locations and the southern two-thirds of the GBR. There is a distinct discontinuity in threat exposure along the GBR coast with 98% of seagrass meadows in the northern third exposed to only low levels of anthropogenic risk. The clustering of threat exposure is discussed in terms of coastal management policy. The approach outlined in this study provides management agencies a method of achieving maximum return for minimal investment in data collection at broad spatial scales by identifying sites where management intervention would be best targeted. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd.

Trianni M.S.,Northern Fisheries Center
Fishery Bulletin | Year: 2016

Analysis of the life history of the thumbprint emperor (Lethrinus harak) sampled from Saipan Lagoon during 2005-2006 revealed sex-specific differences in von Bertalanffy age and growth parameters. Length at 50% reproductive maturity was estimated as 19.6 cm fork length (FL) for females and as 18.7 cm FL for males for the corresponding ages of 2.6 and 2.4 years. Available data from several sources for this data-poor coral reef fish were analyzed to assess its population status in Saipan Lagoon, Northern Marianna islands. Estimates of total mortality (Z) within the period 2005-2011 were derived by using length-converted catch-curve analysis and the Chapman-Robson estimator. Natural mortality (M) was estimated from 3 models based on applicable observations and parameter estimates derived from data for thumbprint emperor in Saipan Lagoon. Exploitation ratios (E) derived with combinations of Z and M estimators within the period 2005-2011 showed a wide disparity, although no estimate of average annual E exceeded 0.5 (an E over that threshold would have indicated overexploitation). Location-specific life history studies should be pursued to support local research and management goals. Standardized methods for the estimation of life history parameters would allow empirical comparisons between regions. © 2016, National Marine Fisheries Service. All rights reserved.

Sofonia J.J.,Pty Ltd | Unsworth R.K.F.,Northern Fisheries Center
Journal of Environmental Monitoring | Year: 2010

Given the potential for adverse effects of ocean dredging on marine organisms, particularly benthic primary producer communities, the management and monitoring of those activities which cause elevated turbidity and sediment loading is critical. In practice, however, this has proven challenging as the development of water quality threshold values, upon which management responses are based, are subject to a large number of physical and biological parameters that are spatially and temporally specific. As a consequence, monitoring programs to date have taken a wide range of different approaches, most focusing on measures of turbidity reported as nephelometric turbidity units (NTU). This paper presents a potential approach in the determination of water quality thresholds which utilises data gathered through the long-term deployment of in situ water instruments, but suggests a focus on photosynthetic active radiation (PAR) rather than NTU as it is more relevant biologically and inclusive of other site conditions. A simple mathematical approach to data interpretation is also presented which facilitates threshold value development, not individual values of concentrations over specific intervals, but as an equation which may be utilized in numerical modelling. © 2010 The Royal Society of Chemistry.

Northern Fisheries Center | Date: 2016-03-29

Fish, not live.

Northern Fisheries Center | Date: 2016-11-28

Fish fillets; Frozen fish.

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