Rock lobsters thriving in marine protected areas
Wednesday 23 January, 2019
Numbers and size indicate healthy marine parks
Parks Victoria surveys of rock lobsters in Victorian marine protected areas have revealed populations are thriving, indicating that Wilsons Promontory Marine National Park, Merri Marine Sanctuary and Point Addis Marine National Park are serving their purpose in conserving these special marine ecosystems.
Parks Victoria Marine Science Manager Dr Steffan Howe says the surveys found bigger rock lobsters and in some cases more than triple the number of those outside marine protected areas.
“The rock lobsters in Wilsons Promontory Marine National Park were large - big enough to feed on the black-spined sea urchins which destroy kelp forests and seaweed meadows if left unchecked. This has happened in East Gippsland, where the urchins have increased in number due to ocean warming,” said Dr Howe
“While many people think of rock lobsters as food, not many know that they are important predators in the marine environment and a key indicator of ecosystem health.”
“The surveys looked at similar habitats inside and outside of marine protected areas, giving us a good comparison of the state of rock lobsters in different areas.”
“Marine protected areas are managed for conservation so we expected the number of rock lobsters to be higher than elsewhere. That doesn’t mean areas outside of marine protected areas are not well managed, they’re just managed for different purposes.”
These surveys have been conducted in partnership with Deakin University, commercial fishers and Australian Marine Ecology. Ongoing collaboration between Parks Victoria and partners is essential for successful marine management.
Daniel Ierodiaconou, Associate Professor in Marine Science at Deakin University agrees with Dr Howe: “The massive rock lobsters at Wilsons Prom are likely to protect the area from invasion and prevent this from becoming a ‘stepping stone’ for the invading sea urchins to spread across the rest of the state.”
Victoria’s system of marine national parks and sanctuaries was established in 2002 to help protect the State’s unique marine environments and species. All forms of commercial and recreational fishing are prohibited in these areas.
Parks Victoria Compliance Manager Ron Waters said that Parks Victoria and Victorian Fisheries Authority regularly patrol marine protected areas for illegal fishing.
“I’m pleased that these survey results suggest good compliance in no-take zones. I want to congratulate local communities, recreational and commercial fishers for recognising the value of these sanctuaries and adhering to the ‘no-take’ zone requirements,” said Mr Waters.
About Parks Victoria
Parks Victoria is a statutory authority that manages and protects the best of Victoria’s nature in more than 3,000 of Victoria’s different parks and reserves making up 18 per cent of Victoria’s landmass, 75 per cent of Victoria’s Wetlands and 70 per cent of Victoria’s Coastline.
Parks Victoria is committed to delivering works on the ground across Victoria’s park network to protect and enhance park values. It is our primary responsibility to ensure parks are healthy and resilient for current and future generations. This includes world class conservation projects, facilities and experiences across the estate.
Healthy Parks Healthy People is at the core of everything Parks Victoria does. Parks and nature are an important part of improving and maintaining health, both for individuals and the community. Parks Victoria has a clear role to play in connecting people and communities with parks.