Seafloor biota, rock lobster and demersal fishes assemblages of the Tasman Fracture Commonwealth Marine Reserve Region: determining the influence of the shelf sanctuary zone on population demographics

The Tasman Fracture Commonwealth Marine Reserve (CMR) is the southernmost CMR within the Australian CMR network in continental waters. The Tasman Fracture CMR, as part of its zoning arrangements, includes a no-take zone on the continental shelf. This is the only area of continental shelf habitat included within the south-eastern CMR network that completely prohibits fishing activities through the establishment of a Sanctuary Zone. Despite being protected for over 7-years, little was known about the range of habitats and associated biological diversity occurring on the shelf waters within this CMR, or the extent that protection had influenced the biota of the CMR. In this study, we take a multi-step approach to first identifying the types and distribution of benthic habitats within, and adjacent to the CMR, and then focussing on reef habitat, to use a range of biological sampling tools to describe the associated reef biota. These surveys included contrasts of the biota in, and adjacent to the no-take zone, to determine the extent that the biota may have responded to the 7 years of protection within the CMR. Reef habitat was targeted due to its overall greater species diversity than adjacent soft sediments, and this habitat was known to be actively targeted by fishing activities, including those for southern rock lobster.

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