Did you know that the growth rate of Black Bream in the Swan and Canning Rivers has almost halved over the last decade? Or have you wondered why Cobbler and, until very recently, school prawns seem to have disappeared from Perth’s local waterways?
Having a variety of healthy habitats available for fish to utilise is one of the most important and often overlooked parts of healthy fisheries. A fish’s habitat includes all the places it feeds, breeds and as a juvenile, uses for protection from predators. For a fish to survive its juvenile life stages, have lots of quality food sources and be able to find suitable areas to breed in, it requires a variety of different habitats. The higher the availability and the healthier the condition of these habitats, the more fish will be able to survive from juvenile to maturity and contribute to the next generation, which means a better fishing experience.
The Swan and Canning Rivers are the most developed and modified in Western Australia. Since European settlement just under 200 years ago modification of this system has resulted in our fish losing significant amounts of crucial habitat which has negatively impacted some of our favourite fisheries. Where the Perth CBD now stands, once existed an extensive system of wetlands. Continued development around Perth’s rivers has seen the loss of 70% of the systems’ wetlands which once provided filtration to waters flowing into the river and highly productive feeding sites for fish.
Many people are also unaware that much of these lost wetlands were reclaimed using oyster shells dredged from the Swan-Canning Estuary. Before their removal by dredging, Oyster reefs were common throughout the estuary and provided complex fish habitat full of high energy food sources and shelter for fish. Imagine how awesome it would have been to go down and soak a bait at the oyster reefs next time you were chasing Mulloway in the Swan!
As well as the loss of wetlands and oyster reefs, the estuary has also lost 1/3 of its seagrass, another habitat that provides an important refuge for juvenile fish and a great spot for predators to hunt in. All of this habitat loss has had serious implications for ecosystem health and for recreational fishing. While this habitat loss paints a grim picture, the enticing thing about the current situation is that through getting involved in fish habitat restoration, each and every one of us has the power to take control and turn the tide towards a more productive fishing future.
If you want to see better fishing in the Swan, come down to the Perth Fishers for Fish Habitat Forum and find out how habitat loss has effected fish in our systems and how you can get involved to help bring back habitat and better fishing. You will get to hear from leading Black Bream and estuary habitat university researchers who will discuss how changes in fish habitat are effecting local fish, including why Perth’s Black Bream have suffered from decreased growth rates. As well as this you will get the chance to hear from legendary bream fisher, Ian Sewell, as to the changes he has seen during his time fishing in the Swan and Canning Rivers.
The forum is being held at the Canning River Eco Education Centre, Kent Street, Wilson from 9:30 am till 12:30pm on the 19th November and includes a free lunch. Registrations are essential, so if you want to see better fishing in the Swan, register now by emailing or calling Recfishwest on firstname.lastname@example.org or 9246 3366.