Happy 5th anniversary to Exmouth’s King Reef – a thriving fish habitat just five years after placement on the seabed

Five years ago, all that was there was the barren sandy seabed. 

Today, the area is teeming with vibrant colour, exotic coral and hundreds of marine species, including an array of fish species like trevally, coral trout, cod and mangrove jack.  

What has caused this dramatic transformation? The deployment of the six large, repurposed steel structures and nearly 50 concrete purpose-built modules that makes up King Reef – the fastest developing artificial reef in Australia! 

This latest spectacular video footage by underwater photographer Violeta J. Brosig from Blue Media Exmouth captures the rich biodiversity that has grown on the reef and seen the number of fish species observed on the reef rise to more than 100.  

In 2018, a collaboration between Recfishwest, the Exmouth local community, DPIRD, BHP, NERA, Subcon and Curtin University resulted in King Reef – the first integrated artificial reef deployed in the southern hemisphere covering an area of 27,000m³ – roughly the area of five footy ovals.  

With ongoing support from Woodside Energy, the reef has rapidly transformed the area from an underwater desert into a marine oasis with coral trout, bluebone, spangled emperor, red emperor, mangrove jack, cod, Spanish mackerel and even sailfish seen patrolling around the reef.  

An array of species are now commonly sighted by locals and tourists, spicing up the fishing opportunities and species diversity throughout the Gulf. 

Exmouth Tackle and Camping owner Steve Riley, who was instrumental in turning vision of a repurposed reef in Exmouth Gulf into a reality, said it provides great fishing for fishers in small boats.  

“King Reef is a very easy and accessible spot to fish and it’s brimming with life, so it’s perfect for small boat owners to get out for a fish,” he said.  

“Our record time for reaching the reef, having a troll and having two Spanish mackerel in the boat is seven minutes, that’s how good the fishing has become there!  

“Red emperor, amberjack and Rankin cod were barely reported at all throughout Exmouth Gulf before King Reef’s deployment, now these species are trickling outwards from the structure in great numbers and snorkelers have reported seeing red emperor in only four metres of water within the Gulf. It’s an unexpected, but welcome surprise.”   

Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland said, “King Reef is a perfect example of how repurposed structures like these can quickly create productive, abundant underwater habitats. It is a huge credit to the Exmouth community and all our partners who have helped bring this dynamic reef system to life. 

“Deploying habitat enhancement structures like King Reef is an internationally recognised and scientifically proven method to increase the productivity of our oceans. We are looking forward to seeing more of the structures creating new vibrant marine habitat like this in other parts of WA in the near future.” 

Check out more stunning imagery captured by Blue Media Exmouth below, showing the thriving fish and coral reef communities!  

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