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Public learn importance of Coral Trout stocks along the Great Barrier Reef
The Coral Trout research programme conducted by Reef Check Australia has been a success.
Commencing on the 12th November 2009, the programme involved volunteers being taught a program of well-tested scientific protocol in the course of one day.
The training was conducted at 6 different locations along the Great Barrier Reef coast in a workshop setting.
The volunteers searched the reef and counted the number of coral trout and recorded their sizes.
Thirty-four people participated in the programme which took place at Low Isles (Port Douglas), Saxon Reef (Cairns), Orpheus Island (Lucinda), Keeper reef and Magnetic Island (Townsville), and at Great Keppel Island (Yeppoon).
Participants learnt to recognise the size of fish by practising on foam fish that were sunk underwater. By comparing their results with the real size of the foam fish, the participants learnt whether or not they had a tendency to incorrectly identify the size of fish underwater.
Volunteers also recorded estimations of coral trout habitats. The cover of live coal, bare substrate, macro algae and bleached coral were recorded. Louise Bernstein, a volunteer on the day said it was a great course, “I learnt a lot more and had fun meeting new Reef Checkers too”, she said.
All data has been entered into the Reef Check Australia database funded by the GBRMPA and a Coastcare grant. Data analysis is being undertaken and participants will receive reports upon the completion. Dr Marie-Lise Schläppy, Science Operations Manager for Reef Check Australia said, “We are hoping that these trained participants will download the materials and go and participate in the programme again”, she said.
The programme provided the public with the opportunity to see the difference between fishing zones and green zones and the impact fishing has on the numerous aquatic lives. Dr Marie-Lise Schläppy said, “The programme went really well, one of the recurring comments from participants is how surprised they were at the few coral trout they could see”, she said.
In areas it proved visible that coral trout fish stocks were low and smaller fish were more abundant.
The programme was funded by the Australia Post Community Development Grant and the Australian Government’s Caring for Our Country Coastcare Grant. North Queensland and Torres Strait Marine and Training Institute provided the air vessel and staff for the day.
The Coral Trout Research Programme was a success in teaching the public about the importance of looking after stocks of coral trout and their natural habitats over six locations along the Great Barrier Reef.