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!  

Exmouth’s King Reef – from barren seafloor to a world-class fishing hotspot

From a featureless seafloor to a flourishing marine oasis where fishing world records are being broken – King Reef in Exmouth has become a fishing haven in less than four years.  

Since six large, repurposed steel structures and almost 50 concrete modules were deployed across two acres of sandy seafloor to the north-east of Exmouth in 2018, the underwater desert has now become a fish city, teeming with large pelagic and demersal species prowling the artificial reef.  

One family that has taken full advantage of the improved fishing action surrounding this artificial reef spanning an area roughly equivalent to five footy ovals is the Grasso’s, who are all King Bay Game Fishing Club members in Dampier.  

Each member of the Grasso family – father Mick, his partner Channy and their two children Max and Mia – boasts impressive fishing accolades in their own rights, with each of them owning Australian or world fishing records, recognised by the International Game Fishing Association (IGFA) and Game Fishing Association Australia (GFAA).  

The source of many of these world and Australian fishing records is King Reef – just 6.4km northeast of the Exmouth Town Boat Ramp.  

12-year-old Max Grasso’s line-class world record golden trevally weighing over 13kg and measuring 105cm, caught off King Reef. Give the Grasso family’s Instagram page a follow to keep up to date with the amazing fish they catch!

King Reef shows how rapidly an artificial reef can help boost the marine life around the structure, with 100 fish species monitored around it, including prized demersal species such as red emperor and cod patrolling the depths, while pelagic species such as golden trevally and even sailfish have been spotted patrolling the topwater. 

One of the line-class world records taken out on the reef included a 13.06kg whopper of a golden trevally measuring 1.05m, caught by talented young angler Max Grasso @junior_grassy on Platypus Pretest line. This impressive catch broke two world records at once – the 10kg line class male world record and the small fry male world record. 

“Max’s world record line class golden trevally was taken at King Reef, on the maiden voyage of our new boat and only 20 minutes into running in the motor. It is amazing to now have a fishing location like this so close to home and so easily accessible for everyone,” said his father, Mick Grasso.  

These stunning underwater snaps taken by professional photographer Violeta J. Brosig from Blue Media Exmouth show what is happening beneath the surface at King Reef, with the repurposed structures now teeming with fish, marine life, algae and coral.

Both Max, 12 and his younger sister Mia, 8, cleaned up at the recent Game Fishing Association Australia (GFAA) awards after numerous trips to King Reef.  

Max set a target to tag 120 game fish for the 2021/22 season. Not only did King Reef play a key role in helping him pass this mark with three months to spare, but Max also had to buy an extra-large cricket bag to fit in all his trophies from the GFAA awards night!  

Max took out the Junior Male Angler Capture, Junior Male Angler Release and Peter Bennett Trophy for most meritorious tag and release achievements by a junior angler, along with the Neil Patrick Trophy for most gamefish tagged in Australian waters.  

Max’s younger sister Mia also sweeped multiple GFAA awards, taking out the WA small fry female capture and release divisions. She then went on to claim the national Small Fry Capture Award, winning the ‘big trophy’ she set her eyes on after her brother had won it previously.

Max Grasso (pictured left) and Mia Grasso (pictured right) both cleaned up at the recent Game Fishing Association Australia (GFAA) Awards, with many of their tagged and record catches from King Reef in Exmouth.

“It is fantastic to see that artificial reef structures such as King Reef boost marine life and create fantastic fishing opportunities, whether it’s by trolling or bottom fishing” said Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland.  

“King Reef is a perfect example of how repurposed structures can create thriving new habitats and support a huge range of species that bring benefits to the local community, economy and environment. 

“It’s why Recfishwest is targeting approvals and funding for new artificial reefs in various locations from Albany to Broome to add to the seven reefs currently flourishing in WA waters.”  

The deployement of the King Reef structures came from a collaboration between Recfishwest and the Exmouth local community, BHP, NERA, DPIRD, Subcon and Curtin University.  

Find out more about the State’s network of artificial reefs here.  

The location of King Reef in Exmouth, make sure you pay this great fishing spot a visit!

Esperance’s anticipated Cooper Reef a reality

Last week marked a very special occasion for the community of Esperance, as their long-held dream of an artificial reef close to town has been realised.

Cooper Reef, named after local community champion Graham Cooper was deployed!

Watch the video below to see some deployment footage from last week

Who is Graham Cooper?

Graham Cooper is a vocal fishing safety advocate!

Graham is an inaugural member of the Esperance Deep Sea Angling Club and is one of the driving forces to getting a new reef for his community.

Graham has also played a huge role in the fishing safety space by educating almost 10,000 school students on the south coast about fishing safety over the last decade.

Graham has also been instrumental in leading fishing safety initiatives in Esperance, Ravensthorpe and Hopeton. He has pushed for public safety equipment – such as angel rings and rock anchor points – to be installed at high-risk fishing South Coast fishing locations.

Graham is also a Recfishwest safety ambassador for the Fish and Survive campaign and the chairperson of the South East Coast Recreational Fishing Council.

In his spare time, Graham enjoys fishing for demersal species off Esperance!

The Recfishwest team are proud to have been a part of this project from the beginning. However, full credit must go to the tireless team of local volunteers who made this vision a reality.

Read more about Cooper Reef in the Esperance Express!

One of Cooper Reef’s modules!

Click here for Cooper Reef’s exact coordinates or find out more about the other artificial reefs we have deployed here.

To read more about Cooper Reef’s construction process, click here.

Down they go! The modules getting dropped to ocean floor.

Fish Towers to be deployed this summer

Get ready for some metro pelagic fishing this Summer at the new Fish Towers!  Two new exciting Fish Towers will be deployed this summer in the metropolitan region, funded through recreational fishing licence fees, creating exciting brand new fishing opportunities. The Fish Towers add to the continued development of artificial reefs in WA, joining the highly successful artificial reefs off the coasts of Dunsborough, Bunbury and Mandurah. The towers will be 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.

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 costly process of reef deployment at sea has also been reduced through a new innovative technique that has never been used with this style of artificial reef anywhere in the world. Instead of being loaded onto a barge and deployed using a crane, the large structure will be towed out into position and its buoyancy tanks will be flooded to safely and cost effectively sink the towers.

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. 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. The reasons that the towers make such a perfect homes for these fish species comes from their purpose built design.
The steel lattice provides shelter for baitfish from pelagic predators (which attracts these predators to the tower) while the structures’ complex habitat provides variation in temperature, shade and hydrological effects such as current, to favour a variety of different species and higher abundances of fish. The curved steel plates on the fish tower promote upwelling and the surfaces of the structure can be colonised by macro-algae, sponges and corals, both of these factors provide a boost to the food chain and increase the productivity of the reef, further increasing the number and variety of target species.

Pelagic species such as Samson Fish, Yellowtail Kingfish, Salmon, Spanish Mackerel and Tuna species could all be expected at the reef as well as 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 reefs were funded using recreational fishing licence fees and are there for all fishers to enjoy. Anchoring right on top of reefs should be avoided as it will limit the benefit they can have to all fishers and limit the chances of your anchor returning. As is the case with 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 or by drifting weighted mulies in a burley trail.

The exact locations are yet to be confirmed, but will be announced by Recfishwest in due course. It is expected they will be located between Rottnest and Garden islands and installation of the structures will begin this summer. With huge projects like this, WA is showing the world what can be achieved by passionate fishers who believe in enjoyable, safe, sustainable and accessible fishing experiences for the WA community in the future.

Artificial Reefs Highlights New Fishing Projects for WA

More Artificial Reefs Highlights New Fishing Projects for WA
– Nine new projects funded from recreational fishing licence money
– New artificial reefs for Exmouth and Esperance plus funding towards an artificial reef for Dampier

Fisheries Minister, Joe Francis, today announced nine new fishing projects funded from recreational fishing licence money through the Recreational Fishing Initiatives Fund (RFIF). These projects include nearshore artificial reefs to benefit the regional communities of Exmouth and Esperance.  Exmouth and Esperance are set to join Mandurah, Bunbury and Dunsborough as WA’s regional towns to receive an artificial reef. These reefs will provide safe accessible fishing for families in small boats.

The Minister also approved one-third of the funding required for a large offshore artificial reef in Dampier. This funding will allow The City of Karratha to leverage the remaining funding required to see this project come to fruition.

Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland was thrilled with the announcement by the government which helps ensure WA communities have enjoyable fishing experiences forever.
“The Recreational Fishing Initiatives Fund (RFIF) has provided our great state with over $7million of fishing projects that benefit WA fishers while having additional tangible outcomes for fish habitats, the environment and research,” Dr Rowland said.

“We ask WA fishers where they want their licence money spent and artificial reefs continually come out towards the top of the list. Recfishwest will continue to work hard to provide projects like these that improve people’s fishing experience.”
These reefs provide quality fish habitat in areas where people would normally need to travel excessive distances or venture into rough waters.”
“A lot of people are now seeing the great fishing on the existing South West and Mandurah artificial reefs and if we can transfer those great fishing experiences to other regional hubs state-wide, it will be a huge boost for localised tourism as well as a win for fish habitats.


Other projects announced in this RFIF round included:
– A WA first, Blue Swimmer Crab stocking project
– A project to Determine Economic Value of Recreational Fishing in WA
– An extension of the existing Oyster Reef trial in Albany
– A Threadfin Salmon tagging project in Roebuck Bay, involving local fishers
– Fisher deployed shark bite off video survey
– Continued support for Fishability in WA (Fishers with Disabilities)
– A Community project to connect fishing clubs with their communities’

See a project that interests you? Please get in contact with us and we can tell you more.
ENDS
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Fact File:
– The Recreational Fishing Initiative Fund has invested millions of dollars back into rec fishing projects since 2012.
– Purpose built artificial reef structures feature a strong reinforced concrete framework which provides a hard substrate for reef-building organisms and algae to settle on as well as protective structure for fish to hide from predators and aggregate around.
– Artificial reef installations at the other south-west locations (Mandurah, Bunbury, Dunsborough) have already started to see some great results. Check them out here: https://recfishwest.org.au/artificial-reefs/
– This project was made possible by the Recreational Fishing Initiatives Fund and supported by Recfishwest and the WA Department of Fisheries.

Pelagic Paradise Deployed Off Perth

In the October 2016 edition of Recfishwest’s Broad Cast we shared an article on the reef towers set to be installed off the Perth coast this summer. Well the news is good and the deployment is running ahead of schedule with one of the towers being installed on December 21, with the second set to be deployed late December.

Fishing for Perth metro pelagics is set for a breath of new life with the instalment of two steel reef towers, which will boost fishing opportunities for fishers over the summer months.   The towers will be an addition to the numerous other artificial reef and habitat enhancement projects complete or underway in WA, funded through recreational fishing licence fees.

The reef towers differ from the concrete reef frameworks currently installed off Dunsborough, Bunbury and Mandurah and those planned for deployment in Esperance, Exmouth and Dampier. The towers are the first steel artificial reef structures, with a different layout and construction to the demersal reefs, and on a much larger vertical scale.  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 70 tonne and is 10m long and 7.8m wide. The costly process of reef deployment at sea has also been reduced through a new innovative technique that has never been used with this style of artificial reef anywhere in the world. Instead of being loaded onto a barge and lowered using a crane, the large structure is being towed out into position and its buoyancy tanks will be flooded to safely and cost effectively sink the towers.

The reef towers have been specifically designed to not only house demersal fish species but namely to attract an array of pelagic top-water fish in a similar way to FADs. The lattice-like steel upper part of the reef will provide structure and concentrate small baitfish, attracting predatory pelagics. The purpose built design will also allow demersal species to shelter amongst the large base structure with its various shapes, crevasses and vertical profile.

The steel lattice structure provides a complex habitat with variations in temperature, shade and hydrological effects such as current. The curved steel plates on the tower promote upwelling and the surfaces of the structure can be colonised by macro-algae, sponges and corals to favour a variety of different species and higher abundances of fish.

The wide range of habitats influenced by the reef towers will hold a good variety of fish species, with pelagics such as Samson Fish, Yellowtail Kingfish, Salmon, Spanish Mackerel and Tuna all expected to turn up at the reef as well as demersal species such as Pink Snapper, Dhufish and Baldchin Groper. There’s also a good chance of King George Whiting, Skippy, Flathead, Flounder and even Mulloway that are caught in the surrounding areas. All of these species have been encountered on the established South West artificial reefs but other species such as Yellowfin Tuna and Bonito are also expected to make an appearance.

The reef towers were funded using recreational fishing licence fees and are for all recreational fishers to enjoy. 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. 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 casting or 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.

The reef towers will be located in “the paddock” between Garden Island and Rottnest Island, see map below for coordinates. With huge projects like this, WA is showing the world what can be achieved by passionate fishers who believe in enjoyable, safe, sustainable and accessible fishing experiences for the WA community in the future.

This project was made possible by the Recreational Fishing Initiatives Fund and supported by Recfishwest and the WA Department of Fisheries.