Artificial Reefs

Artificial reefs are rapidly shaping Western Australia’s coast line, with Recfishwest leading the installation of over 1000 tonnes and over 150,000 m2 of artificial reef habitat in local waters. Our artificial reef experts, along with our trusted partners, have built extensive artificial reef capabilities and knowledge to ensure artificial reefs have a consolidated place in Western Australia’s ongoing conservation of important aquatic habitats.

More About Our Reefs

Recfishwest has a long, trusted working relationship with state and federal governments, world-leading engineers and sub-sea infrastructure experts and, most importantly, with the community. We pride ourselves on using best practice scientific methods and public engagement to ensure maximised environmental and community benefits from all of our reef investments.

Artificial reefs are purpose built structures installed in aquatic environments (marine, estuarine, river or lake) for the purpose of creating, restoring or enhancing habitat for fish, fishing and other recreational activities. Artificial reefs mimic the characteristics of natural reefs by creating new habitats and providing shelter, feeding opportunities and varied changes to the water column.

“Artificial reefs provide a complex habitat for a range of different species. Once algae, corals and invertebrates make themselves at home, they produce additional biomass in the food chain, creating a food source for fish and other species”, Recfishwest Research Officer James Florisson

Artificial Reefs in Western Australia

Artificial reefs in Western Australia have been a product of community drive and passion with local fishers pushing for reef installations,  transforming areas devoid of bottom structure and habitat to underwater ‘forests’. The main source of reef funding to date has been through the Recreational Fishing Initiatives Fund (RFIF), whereby 25% of fishing licences fees are invested into projects to benefit the community’s fishing experiences.

Reefs are required to be of a certain volume in order to ensure they become habitat production devices, rather than simply drawing fish in from other areas.

Artificial reefs have also benefited the broader local community by supporting local businesses and the economy through increased fishing tourism. The artificial reefs provide not only an opportunity for ecological growth under the water, but also social and economic growth for the community.

To date six artificial reefs have been deployed in WA. In 2013 two artificial reefs were deployed off the coast of Dunsborough and Bunbury. Each of these reefs consist of thirty 10 tonne 3m3 concrete modules in six clusters of five aimed at providing habitat for target species such as Samson fish, Pink Snapper and Silver Trevally.

In April 2016 a third artificial was deployed off the Mandurah coast. This reef was constructed out of the same modules in the same configuration as the South West reefs. Finally in late 2016/early 2017 two giant steel ‘fish towers’ were deployed South of Rottnest Island near Perth. Each of these modules are 4 story’s high, weigh 70 tonnes each and due to their large amount of vertical habitat, provide shelter and food for a variety of different fish species.

August 2018 saw Australia’s first integrated artificial reef, King Reef, deployed in the safe waters of the Exmouth Gulf. Six re-purposed steel structures along with 49 concrete modules were deployed across 27,000cubic metres of baron sea floor – equivalent to 11 Olympic size swimming pools. A partnership between Recfishwest, Subcon, BHP, National Energy Resources Australia (NERA) and the WA State Government meant West Australia had it’s first look at a reef concept never seen before Australia.

The local fishing community have real ownership of the development of artificial reefs as well as provide expert advice to maximise the fishing opportunities for everyone.

There is no doubt that the fishing community will continue to grow a sense of stewardship for artificial reefs as we see more and more deployed throughout Western Australia.

Artificial reefs in WA complement Western Australia’s robust and adaptive fisheries management approach ensuring fish stocks remain sustainable and great fishing experiences are protected forever.

Interesting Facts about Artificial Reefs

Will these reefs attract fish from other areas?

Artificial reefs mimic the characteristics of natural reefs. By creating new habitats, providing shelter and feeding opportunities, changing water flow dynamics and activating internal reef voids, purpose built reefs have been shown to be many times more productive than natural reef systems. It is common practice to ensure reef are larger than 800m3 in order to ensure they become habitat production devices, rather than simply drawing fish in from other areas. The 27,000m3 of new habitat used to create the Exmouth reef is more than 30 times larger than the volume required for a reef to be considered productive.

Why don’t you just make a tyre reef, use old cars or sink a ship?

Some artificial reefs used to be made from sunken ships, tyres and similar materials. While they do work to some degree, they can have some negative impacts on the marine environment including leaching of pollutants and stability issues. Tyre reefs have also proven to be a poor settlement medium meaning reefs made from tyres show limited growth and do not promote production. Poor positioning and management of these reefs has also resulted on materials becoming separated from the reef and damaging nearby natural reefs.

How do you monitor the reefs?

Recfishwest enlists the help of the community to monitor our artificial reefs through pur world leading citizen science program called ‘Reef Vision’. Reef Vision uses baited underwater video camera’s to record the life on the reefs which is then analysed by research officers. To read more about Reef Vision visit: https://recfishwest.org.au/our-services/research/reef-vision-artificial-reef-monitoring/

Locations

Artificial Reefs in Western Australia

Bunbury Artificial Reef

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  • Coordinates 33° 18.500'S 115° 35.900'E
  • Depth (metres) 17
  • Module Type Concrete Fish Boxes x 6 clusters of 5 modules (the location is the centre point between all the clusters)

Dunsborough Artificial Reef

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  • Coordinates 33° 33.962'S 115° 9.980'E
  • Depth (metres) 27
  • Module Type Concrete Fish Boxes x 6 clusters of 5 modules (the location is the centre point between all the clusters)

Esperance Artificial Reef

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  • Coordinates 33° 52.2638'S 121° 58.834'E
  • Depth (metres) 31
  • Module Type Apollos, Abitats, and 128 Reef Dome modules

Exmouth Artificial Reef

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  • Coordinates 21° 54.938'S 114° 11.235'E
  • Depth (metres) 17
  • Module Type Steel reef units/concrete modules; Apollo, Abitats, and Pyramids

Mandurah Artificial Reef

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  • Coordinates 32° 31.59'S 115° 34.98'E
  • Depth (metres) 25
  • Module Type Concrete Fish Boxes x 6 clusters of 5 modules (the location is the centre point between all the clusters)

Perth Fish Towers

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  • Coordinates 33° 18.500'S 115° 9.980'E
  • Depth (metres) 45
  • Module Type Lattice Steel Structure x2

Bunbury Artificial Reef

In January of 2013 the first purpose-built artificial reef in Western Australia was unveiled by the Minister for Fisheries. The $2.38 million investment saw the establishment the State’s first artificial reef trial on the South West coast off Bunbury and Dunsborough, with an aim to increase habitat for key fish species. Royalties for Regions program funding and $520,000 from recreational licencing revenue enabled the artificial reef initiative to come to fruition.

Purpose-built reef modules are designed to create upwelling’s bringing nutrient rich water from the sea floor to the surface creating phytoplankton and zooplankton blooms.  These booms provide the basis for productive food chains and Recfishwest believes artificial reefs create new habitat and nursery areas.

The reef location is within five kilometres of shore almost directly in line with existing boat ramps. These reefs will enable safe access for recreational fishers with small boats in Geographe Bay.

The structures will benefit the environment and local communities; complement Western Australia’s robust and adaptive fisheries’ management approach; and help ensure fish stocks remain sustainable.

Prior to the deployment of the Dunsborough and Bunbury artificial reefs only a dozen fish species were identified at the deployment locations. Three years later over 60 species have called these reefs home.

April 2013
Novemeber 2015
April 2017

Prior to the deployment of the Dunsborough and Bunbury artificial reefs only a dozen fish species were identified at the deployment locations. Three years later over 60 species have called these reefs home.

The modules are perfect cover for tough fighters likes sambos, pinkies and kingies, and other species such as skippy, mulloway, baldchin groper, flathead, whiting and squid.

Fish like this can run straight through the reef when hooked, meaning disaster for the angler. That means the bigger fish are its almost impossible to stop if hooked close to the structure and it requires fishers to take that into account when fishing around the reefs.

For that reason, it is best to avoid anchoring right on the reef (which also means less chance of losing the anchor), instead set yourself to anchor so you are sitting alongside the reef (taking into account wind direction and current).  Anchoring directly on the reef will lead to heavy tackle and fish losses, but being too far away will produce poor results, so take the time to get it right, remembering that those sambos, pinkies and kingies know exactly where to head when hooked.

A berley trail is a good way to bring the fish to you. Alternatively, trolling around the reefs is a good way to find the pelagic fish which are in the area, while drifting close to it should allow you to draw bottom fish like dhuies and pinkies to your bait or lure.

Always be responsible and courteous of other fishers in the area, including spear fishers, there’s plenty of opportunities to fish the reefs.

Dunsborough Artificial Reef

In January of 2013 the first purpose-built artificial reef in Western Australia was unveiled by the Minister for Fisheries. The $2.38 million investment saw the establishment the State’s first artificial reef trial on the South West coast off Bunbury and Dunsborough, with an aim to increase habitat for key fish species. Royalties for Regions program funding and $520,000 from recreational licencing revenue enabled the artificial reef initiative to come to fruition.

Purpose-built reef modules are designed to create upwelling’s bringing nutrient rich water from the sea floor to the surface creating phytoplankton and zooplankton blooms.  These blooms provide the basis for productive food chains and create new habitats and nursery areas.

The reef location is within five kilometres of shore almost directly in line with existing boat ramps. These reefs will enable safe access for recreational fishers with small boats in Geographe Bay.

The structures benefit the environment and local communities; complement Western Australia’s robust and adaptive fisheries’ management approach; and help ensure fish stocks remain sustainable.

Prior to the deployment of the Dunsborough and Bunbury artificial reefs only a dozen fish species were identified at the deployment locations. Three years later over 60 species have called these reefs home.

November 2015
February 2016
April 2017

Prior to the deployment of the Dunsborough and Bunbury artificial reefs only a dozen fish species were identified at the deployment locations. Three years later over 60 species have called these reefs home.

The modules are perfect cover for tough fighters likes sambos, pinkies and kingies, and other species such as skippy, mulloway, baldchin groper, flathead, whiting and squid.

Fish like this can run straight through the reef when hooked, meaning disaster for the angler. That means the bigger fish are its almost impossible to stop if hooked close to the structure and it requires fishers to take that into account when fishing around the reefs.

For that reason, it is best to avoid anchoring right on the reef (which also means less chance of losing the anchor), instead set yourself to anchor so you are sitting alongside the reef (taking into account wind direction and current).  Anchoring directly on the reef will lead to heavy tackle and fish losses, but being too far away will produce poor results, so take the time to get it right, remembering that those sambos, pinkies and kingies know exactly where to head when hooked.

A berley trail is a good way to bring the fish to you. Alternatively, trolling around the reefs is a good way to find the pelagic fish which are in the area, while drifting close to it should allow you to draw bottom fish like dhuies and pinkies to your bait or lure.

Always be responsible and courteous of other fishers in the area, including spear fishers, there’s plenty of opportunities to fish the reefs.

Esperance Artificial Reef

The long awaited Esperance Artificial Reef development is another step closer.

A total of 128 specially designed modules, produced of locally sourced concrete, will be used to create a fish habitat more than twice the size of the Ports Football Oval.

The reef will provide a home for species such as Queen Snapper, Breaksea Cod, Skippy, Harlequin and Pink Snapper.

The reef was built and will be installed by artificial reef experts, Subcon, but could not have been done without the support of the community and the volunteers who have worked tirelessly to make this happen.

It is expected the reef will be deployed in October 2018.

Fish can be targeted by drifting or trolling around the area of the reef and over the top of the reef.

Drifting with weighted baits in a burley trail will increase your chances for species such as pink snapper, queen snapper, nannygai, breaksea cod, harlequin, samson fish, skippy, flathead and king George whiting.

Trolling over the top of the reef may also produce results for Southern Blue fin Tuna.

Avoid anchoring right on top of reefs as it will limit the benefit they can have to all fishers and the chances of your anchor returning.

Exmouth Artificial Reef

Deployed in August 2018, this is the 5th artificial reef in Western Australia and the largest artificial reef in Australia.

A mixture of six steel giant structures integrated with 49 concrete modules form the reef’s configuration, which range in height from one metre to 10 metres and is situated across two acres (11 Olympic size swimming pools) on the baron ocean floor of the Exmouth Gulf.

With over 27,000m3 of new habitat being introduced, the reef will quickly become home to a range of different fish species as well as food sources and a colonising organisms such algae, coral and sponges enhancing ocean biodiversity and fishing experiences for generations to come.

After many years working on bringing this vision to life, Recfishwest and the local community are thrilled to see new accessible and safe fishing opportunities for locals and tourists in the Exmouth area.

This project is a partnership between Recfishwest, BHP, National Energy Resources Australia (NERA), Subcon and the WA State Government. The Exmouth community, Curtin University and Sony are also partners in the Exmouth Reef Vision program which will monitor the reefs’ development and growth.

Positioned on a previously sandy barren seafloor at a depth of 17metres, the revolutionary structures will quickly flourish into a productive marine ecosystem.

Trolling for species such as Spanish mackerel, school mackerel and tuna are worth a shot and being in close proximity to sailfish grounds; you may potentially encounter Sailfish as well.

Try drifting through the reef area or jig using bait for a range of pelagic species such as trevally, tuna and mackerel along with demersal fish such as spangled emperor, rankin cod, coral trout and bluebone.

Avoid anchoring right on top of reefs as it will limit the benefit they can have to all fishers and the chances of your anchor returning.

However anchoring away from the modules and the use of berley can increase your chances of catching some amazing fish.

Mandurah Artificial Reef

The Mandurah artificial reef was deployed off the coast of Mandurah in April 2016.

The purpose-built reef consists of 30 cubic reinforced concrete modules, arranged in clusters of five modules. Each module is 3m x 3m x 3m, weighs 10 tonnes, has a surface area of 30m2 and has an internal volume of 27m3.

The module design is the same as those used in the Bunbury and Dunsborough artificial reefs, being a hollow cube with curved cross braces. The design is aimed to promote upwelling (bringing nutrient rich water from the sea floor to the surface creating phytoplankton and zooplankton blooms, providing the basis for productive food chains) as well as create varied complex spaces and habitats which act as shelter for fish.

The deployment of the reefs was the last stage of a long community driven process to get the reefs in the water. Both Port Bouvard Recreation and Sporting Club as well as the Mandurah Offshore Fishing and Sailing Club (MOFSC) consulted with Recfishwest on reef locations with volunteers from MOFSC even dropping cameras to the seafloor to find the ideal site characteristics for the reef.

To read more about the Mandurah reef, click here.

With the same modules in a similar depth to the successful South West artificial reefs, the Mandurah Artificial Reef is already developing into a complex marine habitat supporting a diverse fish community providing fishing opportunities for iconic species such as pink snapper, skippy, dhufish, baldchin groper and samson fish.

With the same modules in a similar depth to the successful South West artificial reefs (25 metres), the Mandurah Artificial Reef is already developing into a complex marine habitat supporting a diverse fish community providing fishing opportunities for iconic species such as pink snapper, skippy, dhufish, baldchin groper, samson fish, whiting, squid and flathead.

A berley trail is a good way to bring the fish to you while drifting beside the reef taking into account wind direction and current.

Alternatively, trolling around the reefs is a good way to find the pelagic fish which are in the area, while drifting close should allow you to draw bottom fish like dhuies and pinkies to your bait or lure.

Avoid anchoring right on top of reefs as it will limit the benefit they can have to all fishers and the chances of your anchor returning.

Always be responsible and courteous of other fishers in the area, including spear fishers, there’s plenty of opportunities to fish the reefs.

Perth Fish Towers

The towers are the first steel artificial reefs deployed in WA, with a different layout and construction material, on a much larger scale than the artificial reefs further south.

Deployed in January 2017, the fish towers have been specially designed for both pelagic and demersal fish species. The lattice-like steel upper part of the reef will concentrate small baitfish such as Yellowtail Scad, Bullseye, Pike and small Trevally, making the reef a perfect location for predatory pelagics such as Samson Fish, Yellowtail Kingfish, Salmon, Spanish Mackerel and Tuna species.

As well as this, the large area, vertical profile and differing types and shapes of the bottom part of the structure make it an ideal home for demersal species such as Pink Snapper, Dhufish and Baldchin Groper.

Other species that could be caught in the area around the reef include, King George Whiting, Flathead, Flounder and even Mulloway! While all the mentioned species are expected on the reefs (and have been observed on the artificial reefs further south) other fish may also turn up in the proposed deployment area including Yellowfin Tuna, Amberjack and Bonito.

The reasons that the towers make such a perfect homes for these fish species comes from their purpose built design.

Designed by Western Australian artificial reef specialists, Subcon, the purpose built reefs are an impressive 12.5m high or the same size as a four storey building! To add to its height, each reef weighs a massive 50 tonne and is 10m long and 7.8m wide.

The reef towers will be located in “the paddock” between Garden Island and Rottnest Island.  They are designed to hold bait fish and attract fish such as skippy, samson fish, yellowtail kingfish, Spanish mackerel and tuna species along with pink snapper and baldchin groper.

Similar to the South West artificial reefs, some of the best fish are caught around the structure, not right on top of it.

Fish can be targeted by trolling around the area and over the top of the reef as well as drifting near the reef location and jigging or drifting weighed baits in a burley trail.

Anchoring right on top of reefs should be avoided as it will limit the benefit they can have to all fishers and the chances of your anchor returning.

Artificial Reefs Gallery

Artificial Reefs becoming a productive ecosystem

King Reef with additional fish habitat enhancements being added

Bunbury Reef Deployment

Loading the Barge with Dunsborough's Artificial Reef

Local Graham Cooper playing a helping hand in constructing the new artificial reef in Esperance

Partnerships are an important part of the Artificial Reef process

CEO Recfishwest alongside one of the modules used to construct King Reef in Exmouth

Steve Riley - local Exmouth Tacklestore owner drove the King Reef Project to its fruition