Snapper Guardians to forge ahead

Recfishwest is disappointed to reveal the successful Snapper Guardians program will not include a release of juvenile fish this year.

Snapper Guardians was founded following 2015’s widespread fish kill at Cockburn Sound.

The program, aimed at collecting fertilised eggs from pink snapper spawning aggregations in Cockburn Sound, rearing the larvae in the hatchery and releasing juveniles into the wild contains many inherent challenges.

While these challenges have been successfully managed during the first three years of our trial, during the past spawning season, all attempts to collect fertilised pink snapper eggs were unsuccessful.

As you can imagine, towing a fine mesh net around behind a small boat in the middle of the night in an attempt to collect enough 1mm fertilised eggs of a single species is not always met with guaranteed success.

While Recfishwest are extremely pleased with the success rate of this activity so far, the 2018 spawning season proved too challenging to overcome.

The reason for undertaking this project has not changed since its inception in 2015.

Pink snapper spawning aggregations in Cockburn Sound take place in an area subject to ever increasing pressures, both from nature and human activity.

While this program is not a substitute for looking after stock sustainability through traditional fisheries management measures such as size limits, bag limits and spawning closures, it acts as a readiness project that can make a big difference in assisting a population in the face of future uncertainties.

The Snapper Guardian egg collection method was devised to enhance the odds of snapper survival during the most vulnerable first few months of life.

Collecting a relatively small portion of fertilised eggs from the wild and raising juveniles in the Fremantle hatchery for release is, to our knowledge, the only project of its kind in the world. The Snapper Guardians program greatly expands our options in term of future management interventions and snapper stock enhancement options.

In the short-term this program, if scaled-up, has the potential to accelerate the recovery of pink snapper stocks that are currently still rebuilding.

Despite the recent setback, we will continue to forge ahead with Snapper Guardians next year with an egg collection activity planned for this spring.

Snapper Guardians is a much-loved, community-driven annual event at Cockburn Sound.