Stocking and stock enhancement ensures high quality fishing experiences are maintained and enhanced for the West Australian community, forever. From western school prawns to pink snapper in the south of the State, to barramundi in the north, and trout in the South West, Recfishwest supports many stocking and stock enhancement projects throughout WA.
There are many research providers around Western Australia that we partner with, that do a great job in providing fish stocking projects to benefit the community, including Fremantle’s Australian Centre for Applied Aquaculture Research at South Metropolitan TAFE and Broome’s Aquaculture Centre at the Northern Regional TAFE.
Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development’s policy on restocking and stock enhancement in Western Australia underpins these efforts. Recfishwest was instrumental in the development of this policy (Fisheries Management Paper 261) which can be found on the Department of Fisheries website.
WA’s recreational fishers and the broader Perth community have a strong sense of stewardship over the waters of Cockburn Sound. It’s an important area for all kinds of recreational pursuits, including fishing, diving, snorkelling, swimming and boating. The waters of Cockburn Sound are also home to the largest known spawning aggregations of pink snapper in the West Coast Bioregion.
Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development and the community have sacrificed many years of time and effort protecting these important stocks, currently a five-month closed season exists to protect spawning fish.
Every year, between September and December, thousands of adult pink snapper aggregate in Cockburn Sound to spawn. In 2014, the Recreational Fishing Initiatives Fund invested in a project to trial the collection of fertilised Pink Snapper eggs by towing plankton nets around these spawning aggregations. Collected eggs were examined and tested to determine whether the eggs were predominantly pink snapper and whether the genetic spread of collected eggs was representative of natural populations.
The objective of the egg collection project was to test if viable fertilised pink snapper eggs could be collected from the wild. It was a forward thinking conceptual project that, if successful, might one day be used to assist pink snapper recruitment or as a potential means of future proofing fish stocks.
As an innovative egg collection project, funding was focused on research elements rather than any specific stocking component. In the spring of 2015 local aquaculture experts trialed a refined egg collection method and were successful in collecting fertilised pink snapper eggs from Cockburn Sound. These eggs were taken back to the local aquaculture facility and successfully hatched.
By continuing to culture these snapper through the most delicate phase of their life cycle and releasing them when they are between 40mm to 50mm, these fish have been given the best chance of survival in the wild.
These fish have been scientifically marked so that scientists and the community can monitor their survival so we can better understand this species in local waters, as well as the importance of Cockburn Sound. The Department of Fisheries have committed research resources to ongoing monitoring activities following the release of these fish.
The original 2016 pink snapper release, which was a Western Australian first, came on the back of the tragic 2015 fish kill in Cockburn Sound, where big breeding pink snapper stock were found washed up dead.
Using the juvenile fish that had recently hatched from the previously mentioned egg collection project, Recfishwest made the decision to crowd fund the release of the fish some eight weeks after the original release date. By continuing to culture these snapper through the most delicate phase of their life cycle and releasing them eight weeks later when they are between 40mm to 50mm, these fish have been given the best chance of survival in the wild.
With enormous outpouring of public emotion, the WA community rolled up their sleeves, rallied together and raised enough money for the Snapper Guardians project to become reality.
A part of the community support included a memorable pink snapper release event whereby hundreds of people came down to Cockburn Sound and got to release fish they had supported through their generous donations.
Barramundi are one of Australia’s, and WA’s, most iconic sport fish. Caught in both salt and freshwater, people travel from around the world to catch the holy grail of fish!
Now Barramundi stock enhancement programs are improving Barramundi fishing throughout the Kimberley from Broome local waters to Lake Kununurra.
Lake Kununurra barramundi
In 1963 the Diversion Dam in Kununurra was completed as part of the Ord River Irrigation Scheme, creating Lake Kununurra, a large 56km stretch of water. Barramundi have traditionally inhabited Lake Kununurra, with its ideal temperatures and habitat providing a thriving environment. As part of the Barramundi life cycle, mature adults migrate to salt water to spawn. Due to the presence of the Diversion Dam wall barramundi were unable to make their way back to the waters of Lake Kununurra after spawning, and their numbers declined significantly.
With lobbying from Recfishwest, local fishers and scientists, the State Government committed $700,000 over four years as part of the Kimberley Science and Conservation Strategy to restock Lake Kununurra with Barramundi. To date, more than 550,000 fingerlings (approximately 50mm in length) have been stocked into the lake thanks to the efforts of the Kimberley Training Institute and the local community. We now are seeing first hand the Barramundi at sizes to rival the record sizes of those caught in freshwater impoundments of Queensland.
Read more about the success of Lake Kununurra barramundi stocking on the ABC here.
Stocking of barramundi in local waters around Broome has also occurred since 2013. Thousands of fish have been released at both Crab Creek and Willie Creek. These fish were larger in size than the Lake Kununurra Barramundi with some also being tagged for research.
Tagging these fish allows the Broome Aquaculture Centre to track how these fish are going with local fishers reporting recaptures of stocked fish. To date, there has been enough recaptures to deem that stocking program a success.
Western school prawn
Prawning was once a popular Perth pastime, with hundreds of families spending balmy summer nights on the Swan and Canning rivers. In recent years anecdotal evidence has suggested a significant decline in prawn stocks.
Funding generated from recreational fishing licence revenue seeks to turn back the clock. The decline in prawn numbers over the last decade has highlighted the need to protect and restore our important estuaries and catchment areas.
This program will be backed by solid research which will help scientists understand the status of prawn populations, and has currently seen more than 4.5 million prawns put back into the Swan River. The project is being managed by the West Australian Fish Foundation, an organisation focused on fish stocking and stock enhancement following best practice principles. Other project partners include the Swan River Trust and ACAAR (Australian Centre for Applied aquaculture Research).
The release was made possible following a scientific breakthrough in 2013 which saw a world-first achieved with the development of techniques to culture river prawns in ACAAR’s Fremantle laboratory.
Murdoch University is still monitoring prawns in the river to try and determine the factors inhibiting their natural recruitment.
This project was made possible by the Swan River Trust, Challenger Institute of Technology and the Recreational Fishing Initiatives Fund and is supported by Recfishwest and the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development.
More than 20,000 mulloway have been released as part of a project focused on restoring mulloway stocks in the Mid West and throughout the lower west coast of WA.
It provides an opportunity to better understand the species’ movement patterns. Recreational fishers have collected mulloway fin clip samples from along the west coast to determine genetic distribution of the species.
ACAAR (Australian Centre for Applied aquaculture Research), can culture juvenile mulloway from captured broodstock, refining culture techniques for the species, developing marking methods to be able to identify the cultured fish, and releasing them into locations favourable to their survival. The project is managed by the WA Fish Foundation.
Trout stocking takes place every year to replenish popular freshwater fishing rivers and dams.
Trout are stocked in three discrete age classes:
The biggest amount stocked, is of fry, these fish are about three to five centimetres long and in most years the quantity is about 450,000 fish. These fish will take a couple of years to grow to legal size.
The next size of fish released is the yearlings. These fish are from 8 to 12 months old which will range in size from about 20 to 25cm in length. These fish will become legal size in the year of release or the next year.
The third type of fish released is the ex brood stock, or the old breeding fish. These are used for a year or two for their eggs and sperm and then replaced. Brood stock stockings, while very low, are big fish and are prized captures by those that manage to land them.
Recfishwest, through the Freshwater Fisheries Reference Group, offers advice to the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development on appropriate trout stocking locations.
During the past four years, more than 2.3 million trout fry have been released in the South West as well as about 100,000 rainbow trout yearlings and more than 10,000 rainbow and brown trout ex-brood stock, proving the value the community place on trout restocking.
Every year we give people the opportunity to hand release some of these trout at our annual Troutfest community stocking event. Check out previous events here:
The two releases are a great step forward in developing an ongoing dedicated metro yellowtail kingfish stocking program and have helped push the envelope for the development of a comprehensive State-wide stocking program backed by the State Government.