Partial protection disallowing trawling has conservation benefits in a subtropical marine park
Generally, multiple-use marine protected areas (MPAs) allow exploitation activities that are considered acceptable. However, Partially Protected Areas (PPAs) are not always effective in relation to management objectives and biotic responses vary. This study used remote under water video methods to compare fish and invertebrate assemblages between two PPA types, one allowing trawling and the other not, in the subtropical Solitary Islands Marine Park in Australia. The results show that the characteristics of some species differed significantly between the two management types, such as the mean size of the bluespotted flathead Platycephalus caeruleopunctatus that was significantly larger in the area where trawling does not take place. Unexpectedly, however, the abundance of the conspicuous habitat former (pennatulacean seapens) and elasmobranchs did not show clear differences. The study demonstrates that assemblages and some individual taxa benefit from higher protection levels, nevertheless the broader benefits of this management approach are still unclear.