Coral reefs, teeming with life, are home to vibrant fish communities — which makes them extremely attractive places to go fishing. However, fishing in reefs may injure corals, which in turn allows disease to fester, a recent study on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef reports.

Coral disease is a major problem for reefs around the world. When a coral is battling an infection, its growth rate, ability to reproduce, and resistance to other diseases and climate-driven stressors like bleaching are all weakened.

Many countries have established protected areas to keep corals and other marine life safe from fishing and other human interference. How effective are these areas in protecting corals from disease? A handful of studies have offered conflicting evidence. Joleah Lamb, a marine biologist now at Cornell University, sought to find out whether marine protected areas have lower levels of reef disease than unprotected areas.