The past, present and future of WA’s artificial reefs and Recfishwest’s role!

Ever wanted to know the history of how artificial reefs became so successful around the world and the future reefs set to make a splash off our coastline?  

Recfishwest’s Programs Manager James Florisson also spoke with ABC Kimberley/Pilbara on the artificial reefs planned to be placed off the Broome and Carnarvon coasts along with FADs in our northern waters! Catch James’ radio interview by watching the video below!

Mark Pagano (DPIRD’s Aquatic Resource Management) also spoke to 6PR’s Glen Jakovich on artificial reef developments in the pipeline across WA, why certain reef materials are more productive, what species fishers can expect to catch and much more! You can catch Mark’s chat by clicking here

Want to know more about how Recfishwest is driving artificial reef deployments around WA? Click here 

 

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!  

Land-based fishing access for Port Hedland goes to the next level – literally!

Thanks to an innovative jetty design, Port Hedland’s new land-based fishing platform will adapt perfectly to the ever-changing conditions, so land-based fishers won’t have to!

What’s more, the Pilbara Ports Authority (PPA) has safely deployed six mangrove jack, cod and coral trout-attracting reef balls, donated by Rio Tinto, under the smart-design jetty to further enhance fishing opportunities.

PPA placed fishing considerations at the fore of its ongoing construction of the Spoilbank Marina, with better flexibility to fish during Port Hedland’s large tidal swings implemented into the jetty’s design and build.

Given the difference between the low and high tide mark in Port Hedland is frequently around six metres, PPA constructed two levels on the platform that allows fishers the freedom to wet a line either during the low or high tide mark, with wheelchair accessibility included.

Drawing on our artificial reef expertise, Recfishwest assisted PPA in the configuration of the six reef balls, providing tips on how to maximise the effectiveness of the reef modules.

Six reef balls have been safely positioned under the innovative dual-level fishing platform and slightly off to either side to create an inviting habitat for fish and boost the abundance in species for land-based anglers.

The pylons of the jetty themselves will help provide shelter and structure for the settlement of marine flora, algae, crustaceans and bait fish, further encouraging multiple species that fishers love to target to congregate and move between the pylons and individual reef structures.

We have also advised PPA on deploying additional reef ball modules and other reef structures around the marina parallel to the breakwall on the inside of the marina.

By providing other areas of habitat enhancement within the marina, this will help reduce overcrowding on the fishing jetty upon its completion, while also increasing catches of sought-after species.

An artist’s impression of the Spoilbank Marina fishing platform being constructed by the Pilbara Ports Authority. The platform will give recreational fishers improved access to fishing the fluctuating low or high-tide mark in Port Hedland.

Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland said, “It’s great to see that the Pilbara Ports Authority have taken the interests of recreational fishers to heart in designing this marina and fishing platform – we’d like to see other Ports Authorities’ follow this example providing better access for land-based fishers.”

“Not only does the design take advantage of the fluctuating tides in this region, but the modules positioned in the marina will eventually house a wide range of species the community loves to catch.”

It’s good news for Port Hedland’s boat fishers too in the $187.5 million construction of the Spoilbank Marina project, funded by the State Government, Town of Port Hedland and BHP.

“Once complete, the marina will feature a four-lane boat ramp, 22 boat pens, fish cleaning stations and barbecue facilities,” said Pilbara Ports Authority General Manager Engineering and Infrastructure, Charles Kretzmann.

“The Spoilbank Marina will improve safe access to deep water by providing a separate entrance channel for recreational boaters and fishers to use away from large commercial bulk carriers navigating in and out of the port,” added Charles.

Recfishwest will continue to consult with PPA on the ongoing Spoilbank Marina construction, which is expected to be operational by late 2023, with landside completion expected in early 2024.

If you wish to keep up to date on the Spoilbank Marina project, check out the Spoilbank Marina Facebook Page.

Port Hedland has always been an attractive land-based fishing destination for many anglers given the wide range of species on offer and the new Spoilbank Marina development by the Pilbara Ports Authority aims to enhance fishing accessibility in this region.

 

Ensuring West Aussie fishers harness the potential fishing benefits of offshore wind energy projects

Recfishwest remains vigilant in ensuring recfishers are consulted with and have their say on plans to develop, construct and operate large-scale offshore wind energy (OWE) projects in WA, both in state and commonwealth waters.  

There are currently several OWE project proposals in the pipeline off our WA coast, with our South-West, Metro and Mid-West regions the likely locations. The wind turbines that would make up these projects could potentially become a defacto new network of artificial reefs – with similar structures in other parts of the world effectively creating new fish habitats and fishing opportunities.  

For this to happen, recfishers would need to be allowed access to the structures – but with no overarching regulatory framework in place for OWEs, there are concerns exclusion zones might be implemented around the structures, preventing fishing access.  

One of the proposed WA projects – The Leeuwin Offshore Windfarm – would have up to 200 wind turbines operating 24 hours per day, 365 days per year, for up to 50 years. The proposed windfarm would be situated around 15km off the coast between Preston Beach and Binningup. 

The planned Leeuwin Offshore Windfarm location (left) and an idea of what we could potentially see of our South-West coastline (right) Image: Copenhagen Energy.

Recfishwest acknowledges and supports the need for renewable energy production. In pursuit of The Western Australian Government’s aspirations for net zero emissions by 2050, offshore wind energy (OWE) is becoming an attractive proposition.  

Our south-west coastline boasts high wind speeds, favourable water depths, low risk of cyclones and good access to existing port infrastructure – all positive attributes for WA’s growing demand for green energy.    

Winds at sea reach a higher speed and are more constant than wind on land because there are no barriers. To harness this energy, the wind turbines are seated on giant towers installed on the seabed in depths of up to 60 metres or on floating structures anchored to the bottom in deeper waters. 

While it has been proven overseas that recreational fishing can be largely compatible with offshore wind energy projects, it must be a recognised factor and key value when planning, designing, constructing and operating any offshore wind farm projects off the WA coastline.   

Recfishwest will only support OWE projects that improve recreational fishing experiences with no net loss of amenity. As a matter of priority, the decision-makers behind these OWE projects must provide clarity around maintaining fishing access and ensure recreational fishers are consulted in the planning and construction processes. 

From a fishing perspective, OWE projects can act as artificial reefs, potentially enhancing marine abundance in the area through the provision of increased habitat and structure availability.  

Over time, windfarm pylons can potentially lead to an improvement in marine abundance due to the structures acting as artificial reefs, although their construction can cause other issues. Image: Copenhagen Energy.

However, these projects also have the potential to adversely impact environmental and social values through habitat damage and implementation of exclusion zones, along with displacement and concentrations of commercial fishing efforts.  

West Aussie recfishers deserve to be able to fish these structures, without the construction potentially having negative impacts on the fishing spots they already cherish.   

“It is crucially important that any OWE projects should avoid important habitats such as spawning areas and nursery areas, as well as popular fishing locations,” said Recfishwest Operations Lead Matt Gillett.   

“While the possibility of having potentially hundreds of turbine structures in our waters acting as artificial reefs sounds great to keen fishers, this benefit is pointless if we don’t have close accessibility to fish them. We’ve seen this respect given to recfishers overseas and this is what we want locked in if these projects are to proceed.”  

Before development and planning is confirmed, Recfishwest will consult frequently with recreational and professional fishing groups to ensure boating and fishing activities are not negatively impacted.    

To find out more about Recfishwest’s stance on OWE, please click here 

More artificial reefs plus more FADs equals even better fishing this summer!

Fast facts:

  • Long-awaited metro reef gets the green light for early 2021, 7km off Ocean Reef;
  • First modules poured for Carnarvon Reef  with consultation about to begin for Albany artificial reef;
  • Second year of FADs trial program about to launch in the bottom half of the State, including FADs going in off Geraldton.

Today, Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland joined the Fisheries Minister Peter Tinley at Subcon — Blue Solutions’ yard in Henderson to announce that the long-awaited north metro artificial reef has got the green light for deployment 7km off Ocean Reef in early 2021.

So, it’s not every day you get a new fishing spot given to you for free – but if you’ve got a boat and you fish in the metro area, get these coordinates in your plotter now!

This is the centre-point for the new north metro ‘array’ off Ocean Reef. To be based in 27m of water, the reef will be comprised of 292 purpose-designed concrete modules ranging in height from 0.7m to 1.8m and cover an area of 15ha – that’s a space roughly equivalent to four Optus Stadiums.

Constructed by Subcon — who have a strong track-record in artificial reef design and deployment across Australia — this will be the seventh artificial reef to be deployed across WA.

“Experience shows it won’t be long at all before the modules accumulate marine growth that will quickly begin to support new fish habitat,” Dr Rowland said.

“With species like pink snapper, yellowtail kingfish, Samson fish and skippy predicted to make the reef system home, it won’t be long either before the reef is creating safe and accessible, great new fishing opportunities for small boat owners.

“We know these structures evolve quickly as habitat through our Reef Vision program which sees hours of video footage collected by volunteers using underwater cameras dropped on artificial reefs capturing the structures’ development.”

Check out our latest Reef Vision footage from Exmouth’s King Reef at the two-year point in its development.   

Recfishwest would have liked to have seen the north metro reef go in sooner than this, as there has been a great appetite for it from the local recfishing community – but securing Commonwealth environmental approvals for the reef was held up for a number of reasons including COVID.

“Nevertheless, we have got here and the deployment of the metro reef will mark a great start to 2021, as well as the beginning of the next chapter in the State-wide artificial reef program.

This exciting stage sees consultation beginning with the Albany community next month about their artificial reef project and the first Carnarvon artificial reef modules being poured.

Also, bubbling away in the background is research and discussions with oil and gas companies around the possibility of reefing some of their marine infrastructure on the North West artificial shelf which already holds a spectacular array of fish biomass and biodiversity as Fisheries Research and Development Corporation recently reported.

School students Stephanie King and Ellen King join Subcon’s Matt Allen, Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland and Fisheries Minister Peter Tinley having helped construct the reef modules as part of the Future Englneers program. Picture: Recfishwest

Meanwhile, Recfishwest are preparing to kick off the second year of our trial State-wide FADs program which, building on from the success and lessons learnt from last year’s run, will see FADs going in off the metro, Cape Naturaliste and Albany.

“I am also very pleased to let you know we will be deploying FADs off Geraldton this year, with the devices expected to be going in the water in December,” Dr Rowland said.

“We’ll be bringing you more details about the FADs deployment in the next couple of weeks – but just with artificial reefs and FADs alone, there are already some exciting fishing enhancing developments in the pipeline. We’re also working hard to deliver some other projects this summer too – so stay tuned and watch this space.”

Yellowtail kingfish are set to get reels zinging at Ocean Reef’s artificial reef!

Scott’s Spots – Esperance, more than just spectacular scenery

In the latest edition of Scott’s Spots, Western Angler editor Scott Coghlan takes us to Esperance to highlight the popular tourist destination’s incredible fishing. From casting a line along its vast sandy coast or catching herring from the Taylor Street Jetty, Esperance offers a quality fishing experience for everyone. Continue reading “Scott’s Spots – Esperance, more than just spectacular scenery”