Featured News ‘Bright spots’ to shine new light on coral reef fisheries

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Tue, 1 Nov 2016

‘Bright spots’ to shine new light on coral reef fisheries

Prof. Josh Cinner talking to a villager in Muluk village, Papua New Guinea, as part of his research into ‘bright spot’ reefs
Prof. Josh Cinner talking to Manouk - the chief of the Marror clan in Muluk village, Papua New Guinea - as part of his research into ‘bright spot’ reefs

A James Cook University researcher will search the planet to find reefs with thriving fish populations, as part of a radical new approach to help make the globe’s coral reef fisheries more sustainable.

Professor Josh Cinner from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University has been awarded nearly one million dollars by the Australian Research Council to continue his research into reef ‘bright spots’.

Professor Cinner says his research aims to help solve the global problem of unsustainable coral reef fisheries by locating and learning from ‘bright spots’– reefs with more fish than expected, based on their exposure to pressures such as human population, poverty and unfavourable environmental conditions.

“‘Bright spots’ are not necessarily “pristine” reefs, but rather reefs that are doing better than they should be given the circumstances. They are reefs that are “punching above their weight”.

“We want to shine a light on these ‘bright spots’ to examine what’s different about them. Why are they able to withstand the pressures that have caused other reefs to suffer? And could the lessons from these places inform reef conservation in other areas?”

“We believe that the bright spots offer hope and solutions that can be applied more broadly across the world’s coral reefs,” Prof. Cinner said.

Prof. Cinner is one of five JCU researchers to receive more than $2.4m in funding grants from the ARC.

The other winners and the details of their grants and research projects announced today are as follows:

Dr Peter Cowman (lead investigator) $372,000

Coral reefs support over 800,000 plant and animal species. Dr Cowman’s research project will examine how this biodiversity was formed, by trying to discover how evolutionary processes, biogeography and molecular change drive patterns of biodiversity.

Prof Alexandra Aikhenvald (lead investigator) $340,666

This project aims to seek associations between social and lifestyle differences and language structure. The project will study related groups in contrasting physical and social environments in PNG, Africa, East Asia, Amazonia and Australia.

Professor Mark McCormick (lead investigator) $462,500

With unprecedented global declines in live coral, this project aims to determine how reef degradation changes predator-prey dynamics in fish communities.

Professor David Miller (lead investigator) $290,608

Animals evolved in a world dominated by bacteria, and intimately associated microbes affect the development, health and disease of all animals – from corals to humans. Researchers have discovered that the coral Acropora can control its associated bacteria. Understanding how a simple animal manipulates its microbial associates should have implications for coral disease and resilience and for health and disease across the animal kingdom.


For interviews with Professor Cinner please contact:

Josh Cinner

+61 417 714 138


Photos of Prof. Cinner are available at:


For interviews with the other winners please contact:

Richard Davis

Head of Media and Communications, JCU


0413 451 475