Larval export from marine reserves and the recruitment benefit for fish and fisheries

Hugo B. Harrison, David H. Williamson, Richard D. Evans, Glenn R. Almany, Simon R. Thorrold, Garry Ronald Russ, Kevin Andrew Feldheim, Lynne Van Van Herwerden, Serge Planes, Maya Srinivasan, Michael L. Berumen, Geoffrey P. Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

396 Scopus citations


Marine reserves, areas closed to all forms of fishing, continue to be advocated and implemented to supplement fisheries and conserve populations [1-4]. However, although the reproductive potential of important fishery species can dramatically increase inside reserves [5-8], the extent to which larval offspring are exported and the relative contribution of reserves to recruitment in fished and protected populations are unknown [4, 9-11]. Using genetic parentage analyses, we resolve patterns of larval dispersal for two species of exploited coral reef fish within a network of marine reserves on the Great Barrier Reef. In a 1,000 km 2 study area, populations resident in three reserves exported 83% (coral trout, Plectropomus maculatus) and 55% (stripey snapper, Lutjanus carponotatus) of assigned offspring to fished reefs, with the remainder having recruited to natal reserves or other reserves in the region. We estimate that reserves, which account for just 28% of the local reef area, produced approximately half of all juvenile recruitment to both reserve and fished reefs within 30 km. Our results provide compelling evidence that adequately protected reserve networks can make a significant contribution to the replenishment of populations on both reserve and fished reefs at a scale that benefits local stakeholders. © 2012 Elsevier Ltd.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1023-1028
Number of pages6
JournalCurrent Biology
Issue number11
StatePublished - Jun 2012

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2020-10-01
Acknowledgements: We thank B. Sawynok (Infofish Services), members of the Gladstone and Keppel Bay Sportfishing Clubs, and numerous field volunteers for assistance with sample collection. We are grateful for comments, data, or help from P. Costello, J. Cribb, I. Fuertes-Jerez, T. Hughes, A. Lewis, D. Lou, T. Mannering, L. McCook, A. Pihier, P. Saenz-Agudelo, and D. Wachenfeld. Microsatellite enrichment was carried out in the Pritzker Laboratory for Molecular Systematics and Evolution, and genetic analyses were carried out in the Molecular Ecology and Evolution Laboratory, James Cook University. This work was funded by the Marine and Tropical Sciences Research Facility, the Australian Research Council, and the Packard Foundation. Field sampling was conducted under Marine Parks permit No. G06/17981.1 and Queensland General Fisheries permit No. 87381. The work was conducted under JCU Ethics approval A1001.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)


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