Creating seagrass pastures anew for Cockburn Sound

Last weekend recfishing families joined Ozfish unlimited – Perth Chapter – at the Cockburn Power Boats Association to take part in an exciting seagrass restoration project called ‘Seeds for Snapper.’

The project aims to reseed Cockburn Sounds Seagrass meadows which support a wide variety of important fish species including whiting, pink snapper, garfish, calamari and blue swimmer crabs.

Cockburn Sound hosts the largest pink snapper spawning aggregations in the west coast bioregion.

Fishers and divers helped with all elements of the project from the seagrass ‘fruit’ (seeds) collection, placing seeds in tanks with circulating seawater to separate the seed and dispersing of the seed in predetermined locations within Cockburn Sound. It is hoped that one million seeds can be processed, potentially restoring 10,000 m2 (1 Ha) of lost seagrass habitat per annum for the next three years.

The Seeds for Snapper Family Seeding Day builds on last year’s Seeds for Snapper project which saw approximately 200,000 Posidonia australis seeds collected and dispersed over three trial-seeding sites. Three months after last year’s seeding activities, establishment and survival of the seagrass seedlings ranged between 6.5 -20 per cent, which is far better than what has been achieved in the past in attempting to establish new Posidonia australis seagrass meadows.

Below you can see the comparison on two dispersal sites.

Recent research has demonstrated that direct seeding into areas of lost seagrass is likely to be the most cost effective method that may one day be scaled-up to make the biggest long-term difference. Read about it here.

The WA community have a close affiliation with Cockburn Sound, with plenty of good work done previously to protect pink snapper stocks, including pushing for an extension to the annual pink snapper seasonal closure in Cockburn and Warnbro Sounds and our famous Snapper Guardians initiative. The recfishing community greatly values the Cockburn Sound fishery and it’s great to see recfishers once again stepping up to look after the fish habitats that underpin our great fishing experiences.

Cockburn Sounds Seagrass meadows which support a wide variety of important fish species including whiting, pink snapper, garfish, calamari and blue swimmer crabs.

Cockburn Sound pink snapper and seagrass fact file

Cockburn Sound hosts the largest pink snapper spawning aggregations in the west coast bioregion.

The seagrass meadows of Cockburn Sound are well recognised as critical foraging and nursery grounds for pink snapper and other fish, mollusc and crustacean species.

Cockburn Sound’s seagrass meadows have declined by nearly 80 per cent from 4000ha in the 1960’s to less than 1,000ha today. That’s an area equivalent to 1,840 Optus Stadium football fields of seagrass habitat that has been lost in only a few decades. Important species affected by the seagrass loss include not only pink snapper, but others such as squid, garfish and blue swimmer crabs.

Appreciation of the role seagrass meadows play in providing great fishing opportunities is growing in WA due to increased understanding of the critical link between our seagrass habitats and coastal fisheries.

 

Taking the Westport Taskforce to Task on its Environmental Credentials Around Cockburn Sound

Last week, the Westport Taskforce released a project update spruiking Westport’s environmental credentials.

Their report contained a number of claims that Recfishwest believe don’t really stack up. Rest assured we will be questioning these claims made by the Taskforce and demanding answers!

Here are some of the dubious claims made by Westport in their latest report.

Westport claims: WA is a global leader in dredging research.

Recfishwest says: This makes it hard to understand why Westport has been unable to say what effect the dredging will have on the marine environment of Cockburn Sound.

Westport claims: Findings of a Westport workshop concluded that modifying the causeway was unlikely to result in meaningful environmental benefits.

Recfishwest says: Interestingly, the CSIRO review which can be found at the back of the following WAMSI report strongly disagreed with the findings of this workshop.

Read WAMSI’s assessment of the impact of the Garden Island Causeway on the marine environment in Cockburn Sound here.

Read the CSIRO review of the report here.

Westport claims: The environment was weighted heavily in the shortlisting process which gave the marine and terrestrial environments 12.7% and 9.1% weightings.

Recfishwest says: The update failed to mention the 18.2% weighting given to capital expenditure and land acquisition, 16.4% given to operations and maintenance costs and 14.5% given to land use compatibility. Economics were openly prioritised in a highly questionable shortlisting process that still lacks transparency and justification.

$$$ put before the environment

The Government is being provided advice that values dollars much, much more than the environment with Westport themselves saying “affordability was considered the most important criterion for the State”. Recfishwest are not anti-development however, we cannot support developments that values dollars more than the environment. To select a port location primarily based on economics without fully understanding how this development will impact on the environment or the experiences that environment provides demonstrates an extremely poor process. A poor process leads to poor advice and the government needs the best advice in order to make the best decisions. There needs to be a full understanding of the environment in order to make the best decisions.

Despite the claims of being environmentally responsible, made by Westport, the fact remains there is not a good enough understanding of how a port development will impact on the marine environment. Way back in 2006, the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) advised government that if they wanted to progress with the development of an Outer Harbor, there would need to be a whole lot of science to allow a better understanding of the environment. This required science has still to be undertaken, yet Westport are still happy to make recommendations despite critical and fundamental knowledge gaps.

Westport have happily given Deloitte Access Economics $275,000 to estimate trade volumes 50 years into the future yet their lack of environmental investment means they are unable to answer the most basic questions about the impact a port development in Cockburn Sound will have on the marine environment or our fishing experiences.

Governments can only make good decisions when they are provided with good advice and the lack of environmental understanding makes it impossible for Westport to provide the government with good advice.

Read Westport’s project update here.

Seagrass image photo credit: Ozfish Seeds for Snapper Project.

The Community has its say

There are many in the recreational fishing community who like us are watching these developments with alarm given the high stakes involved here – the future of Cockburn Sound’s precious aquatic environment and the quality of the fantastic rec fishing it provides.

We’ve received numerous strong messages from you echoing our concerns on this issue.

Here’s just some of your comments:

“Well done. We cannot let big business think they have the right to do what they want in reach for money, at the expense of the environment,” Fisho’s Friend

“The Government has had years to show they can regenerate seagrass beds after decades of dredging by Cockburn Cement, now it’s time to demonstrate their success across big areas of dredged sea floor!” Michael K

“When the WA Government is openly pushing for an Outer Harbour, how could you expect them to spend money on research to prove how environmentally damaging the dredging will be? Better to say ‘she’ll be right mate’, and push on. Talk about a conflict of interests. If they were serious the research would be done BEFORE the decision on how to proceed. WTF is a farce,” Ray M.

“Way to go recfishwest. Common sense will surely prevail,” Cheryl E

“All very good and valid points. Westport is filled with Kwinana lobbyists, paid consultants, and even property developers. Glad to see Recfishwest stepping up their scrutiny of a process that appears to have had a pre-determined outcome,” Benjamin L

“Great work Recfishwest! Please let us know what position the government takes…I’m sure there will be ramifications come voting time,” Luke D

“Without doubt one of the most important and fragile nursery and breeding grounds for pink snapper and other species of fish on the west coast, yet is continually ignored/pushed aside for political gain and industrial development…” Paul M

Westport: Putting Dollars Before Cockburn Sound’s Marine Environment?

Recfishwest is calling for an urgent review into how the Westport Taskforce determined its five options for the future of the WA freight trade.

The taskforce recently pumped out a series of e-newsletters outlining the five shortlisted options – all of which involved building a new container port in Cockburn Sound.

Having sifted through their rationale for these options, it appears to us that the taskforce has gone against the community’s wishes and placed “commercial viability” of any port development way above the environmental impact on the Sound.

The taskforce came up with its shortlist by rating each proposed development option against a series of criteria – each ranked by importance through what it called a ‘multi-criteria analysis’ (MCA).

Unfortunately for the environment, the weightings used in this process were severely biased towards economic considerations at the expense of environmental ones as the table below shows. In the MCA weightings, the marine environment was ranked way down the list of importance at fourth and the terrestrial environment even further down at equal fifth.

Yet, this flies in the face of a community survey the taskforce carried out, which showed the environment was the community’s number one concern with 55% of respondents listing the environment as their primary concern in any port development.

Furthermore, a Westport Taskforce report released in December 2018 (link below) rated Cockburn Sound with significantly more environmental and social value than Fremantle or Bunbury – both locations which figured as alternative locations for an expanded port in the Taskforce’s original list of options.

December 2018 Westport Taskforce Report

In an attempt to justify this disregard of the Sound’s environmental values and the community’s wishes, the taskforce gave this statement, “It is critical that Westport delivers an outcome that is financially responsible for the State…the final option must be commercially viable and affordable for the long-term”.

In light of this statement, Recfishwest has two questions for the taskforce:

  • Why is the taskforce seemingly placing commercial viability above Cockburn Sound’s sustainability?
  • On whose authority can it say the pursuit of dollars should come above protecting the home to the largest spawning aggregations of pink snapper on the West Coast and numerous fish species (including blue swimmer crabs) that rely on the Sound’s seagrass meadows for their survival?

Governments can only make good decisions when they are provided with good advice and the weightings used in the taskforce’s shortlisting process make it impossible to provide the government with good advice.

The taskforce appears to have made an assumption on behalf of the WA Government that prioritises economics over the environment. The Government needs to be clear about whether they agree with Recfishwest and the community that Cockburn Sound’s precious marine environment must come first or whether they back the taskforce’s view that “commercial viability” trumps sustainability.

There are many places a port can be built, however, there is only one Cockburn Sound, which provides great, accessible fishing experiences for tens of thousands of recreational fishers every year. When the environment takes a back seat, we all lose.

We are therefore calling for an immediate review of the weightings used in the MCA process and greater transparency about the criteria, scores and justifications contained in the process.

Cockburn Sound is under enormous cumulative pressure from a whole range of sources, but rest assured we will always fight to ensure the Sound is protected.

Click here read our position on Protecting Cockburn Sound and the Outer Harbour project.

Time to Get Involved and Have Your Say on Port Options

In September 2017 the Government established the Westport Taskforce to advise them about the future transport needs of Western Australia and how these needs can be best achieved. In determining WA’s future transport needs the question of whether an Outer Harbour in Cockburn Sound or Bunbury is needed or whether the current Port at Fremantle can continue to meet the states future transport needs will be answered.

Given any port development can be expected to impact on fishing experiences (especially within Cockburn Sound) Recfishwest joined the Westport Taskforce’s Reference Group and also secured a position on its environmental working group.  We have provided the Taskforce with information about recreational fishing, social, economic, recreational and environmental values in Cockburn Sound, Fremantle and Bunbury in order to help guide the Taskforce to make informed recommendations.  Recfishwest have ensured the importance of Pink Snapper breeding grounds, seagrass nursery meadows, iconic wrecks and a number of other factors that make Cockburn Sound so important for fishing have been acknowledged.

Recfishwest have driven home the important role Cockburn Sound plays in providing great fishing experiences. The recreational fishing community have long been active stewards in protecting Cockburn Sound whenever possible.  We were a driving force behind the creation of the Cockburn Sound Management Council and have been a foundation member on the council since its inception. We were pivotal in implementing a spawning closure for Pink Snapper and we delivered the Snapper Guardians program which saw over 100,000 Pink Snapper stocked into the Sound after more than 400 fishers reached into their own pocket to help the cause.

Recfishwest have been advocating on behalf of Cockburn Sound for decades. From Cockburn Cement’s dredging program, the proposed livestock holding facility, James Point, fish kills and a series of port proposals over the years, we have been there defending the Sound to protect the fishing experiences we cherish.

Any decision regarding the State’s future transport requirements must be considerate of social and environmental needs.  Any proposal that reduces fish habitat, fish abundance or restrict people’s right to access our local waters will be strongly opposed.

On 12 December 2018 a report on what the Westport Taskforce has found so far was released for public consultation and this report has identified the following eight options as the best plan for future port developments in Western Australia.

  1. Current situation – regarded as the base case
  2. Optimise Fremantle and transition containers to Kwinana over time, with an option to transition them to Bunbury in the long-term
  3. Optimise Fremantle and transition containers to Bunbury over time with no containers in Kwinana
  4. De-industrialise Fremantle and move containers to Kwinana as soon as possible
  5. De-industrialise Fremantle and move containers to Bunbury as soon as possible
  6. Fremantle and Kwinana both have containers for the long-term
  7. Fremantle and Bunbury both have containers for the long-term
  8. Only Fremantle has containers for the long-term

This report highlights Cockburn Sound as a regionally significant spawning / nursery area for Pink snapper, King George whiting, Garfish and Blue swimmer crabs.  The report also confirms Cockburn Sound has the most marine/estuarine environmental and social values of the three proposed locations.  In fact over 87% of all identified environmental and social values across the three proposed locations are found in Cockburn Sound.

The environment that supports our fishing experiences has always been our number one concern and the reason we committed to the Westport Taskforce process. The latest report clearly demonstrates the environmental risks associated with the development of another port in Cockburn Sound are greater than for any of the other locations.

The report also shows that while there are challenges with developing a port in each of the three proposed locations there are no factors that make it impossible for these developments to occur.  As there are more environmentally friendly alternatives to the further development of Cockburn Sound, Recfishwest will not support options that are most likely to impact on our fish, their habitat or our fishing experiences.

Of the 8 available options Recfishwest’s preference is for Option 3 or 7.

Option 3. “Optimise Fremantle and transition containers to Bunbury over time with no containers in Kwinana” or

Option 7. “Fremantle and Bunbury both have containers for the long-term”

Recfishwest will not support any options that further impact on Cockburn Sound fishing experiences.

While the Minister’s foreword in this new report makes reference to an election commitment to plan and build a future Outer Harbour at Kwinana and on 7th November 2018 the Minister also tabled a Bill in parliament likely to limit the available options for developing road infrastructure to support expansion of Fremantle port (Metropolitan Region Scheme [Beeliar Wetlands] Bill 2018) the 8 options presented in the new report are the work of the Westport Taskforce and not the Planning Minister.

While Recfishwest is happy to constructively contribute to finding the best solution to WA’s future transport needs, we need the fishing community to provide feedback during the times of public consultation.  This will ensure the Taskforce and the Minister have a good understanding of the community’s expectations.  Please watch the short video (3 min 45sec) about the eight options mentioned above, have a look through the new report and get involved by completing the short survey making sure to rank your preferred option.

To watch the short video, click Here

To read the what the latest Taskforce report click Here 

To complete the survey click Here 

To read the Ministers media release click Here

Although we are actively contributing to positive policy development through this process, we cannot guarantee what the final recommendation of the Westport Taskforce will be.  What we can guarantee is that Recfishwest will continue to fight to protect Pink Snapper and the great fishing provided by Cockburn Sound.

Read our position on the Cockburn Sound Outer Harbour proposal here (dated July 2, 2018).

Snapper Fishers Needed to Help Seagrass Reseeding Trial

 

In an Australian first, hundreds of West Australian recreational fishers will be asked to take part in a trial to restore the lost seagrass meadows of Cockburn Sound.

A Community Information Session will be held at the Cockburn Power Boats Club at Woodman Point on 3rd October for people to come down and learn a bit more about this trial.

Cockburn Sound has lost some 80% of its seagrass habitat since the 1960’s, down from 4000ha originally, to 900ha today.

Seagrass meadows of Cockburn Sound are critical foraging and nursery grounds for Pink Snapper and plenty of other important species such as Blue Swimmer Crab, King George Whiting and Squid.

OzFish Unlimited is leading this trial, with support from Recfishwest and researchers from the University of Western Australia, along with BCF.

A baron sandy floor with little seagrass coverage; a great reason to have a go and see if the trial works!

The WA community have a close affiliation with Cockburn Sound, with plenty of good work done previously to protect Pink Snapper stocks, including Recfishwest’s famous Snapper Guardians initiative. Spawning closures, bag limits and stocking events are proof the fishing community value the Pink Snapper fishery of Cockburn Sound.

A baron sandy floor with little seagrass coverage; a great reason to have a go and see if the trial works!

Seagrass flowers and seeds are most commonly seen floating together as mats.

This sense of caring deeply about Cockburn Sound sees the fishing community wanting to trial something out of the ordinary in an effort to restore lost fish habitat.

Recfishwest and Ozfish are hosting a community information session at the Cockburn Power Boats Club. Come and learn more about the project and how you can be involved. Register below.

 

 

 

 

Seeds for Snapper Community Information Session Details:

Where: Cockburn Power Club, Woodman Point

When: 3rd October, 6:30pm – 8pm

Who: Ozfish, Recfishwest & University of Western Australia

Seeds for Snapper is also supported by BCF, as a major partner of Ozfish Unlimited.

Background Information

In Western Australia, the Pink Snapper fishery has been part of the cultural fabric for generations with fishers across the state delighting in catching Pinkies. After Shark Bay, Cockburn Sound is Western Australia’s second largest Pink Snapper spawning ground. However, in recent years the Pink Snapper fishery has seen management changes across the state due to fishing pressures, environmental changes and seagrass habitat degradation.

The seagrass meadows of Cockburn Sound are well recognized as critical foraging and nursery grounds for Pink Snapper. Yet, Cockburn Sound has lost some 80% of its seagrass habitat since the 1960’s, down from 4000ha originally, to 900ha today. That’s equivalent to 2, 600 football field-sized areas of seagrass habitat lost over the past few decades! Important species affected by the seagrass loss include not only Pink Snapper but others such as squid, garfish and blue swimmer crabs.

Appreciation of the role seagrass meadows play in providing great fishing opportunities is growing in Western Australia due to increased understanding of the critical link between our seagrass habitats and coastal fisheries.

People may have already seen the racks of flower pods collected by currents floating on the water’s surface. These will be collected and taken to UWA for treatment to separate the seed from the flower pods.

OzFish Unlimited have partnered with Recfishwest and the University of Western Australia (UWA) to support this citizen science restoration program’s plan to use volunteer fishers to release 1 Million seagrass seeds to scale up seagrass restoration.

The seed will be given to fishers to take back out and sown into an area identified just north of Woodman’s Point.  Evaluating the performance of the re-seeded meadows as they develop will also be measured by this project.

An overarching aim of this restoration program is to ensure there is full engagement with the recreational fishing community across the different elements of seed-based seagrass restoration and the outcomes of their re-seeding program to foster community support.

 

 

Register here to attend the information night

Seeds for Snapper

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Put Snapper on Your Agenda at Community Info Sessions

The Westport Taskforce want to hear from you.

Over the years there have been a number of proposals for a new harbour in Cockburn Sound. There is currently a taskforce (Westport) who aim to tell the government what the future transport needs of Western Australia will be and how to best achieve them.

The Westport taskforce will be holding three community information sessions across July and August in Fremantle, Kwinana and Bunbury and keen and interested fishers are encouraged to head down to let this taskforce know what you think. Due to venue limits, RSVP’s are essential.

Details of the upcoming information sessions can be found below:

Session details
Westport invite you to drop-in at any time during the two-hour sessions to speak with members of the Westport team.

Fremantle
Date and time: Wednesday 11 July 2018 – 5:30 pm – 7:30 pm
Venue: Stackwood – 10 Stack Street, Fremantle 6160

Kwinana
Date and time: Wednesday 18 July 2018 – 5:30 pm – 7:30 pm
Venue: Darius Wells Centre, Ken Jackman Room – Cnr Chisham Avenue and Robbos Place, Kwinana 6167

Bunbury
Date and time: Wednesday 1 August 2018 – 5:30 pm – 7:30 pm
Venue: Maker + Co – 75B Victoria Street, Bunbury 6230

Due to venue limits, RSVPs are essential.
Please email or call 6551 6479 to register and indicate which session you wish to attend.
For more information visit the Department of Transport website here:
https://www.transport.wa.gov.au/…/westport-port-and-environ…

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Recfishwest have secured a position on the environmental work group for the Westport taskforce so you can be sure this task force is well aware of the importance of snapper breeding grounds, seagrass nursery meadows, iconic wrecks and a number of other factors that make Cockburn Sound so important for fishing. Recfishwest has already provided a submission on the preparation of the Westport Strategy and we will provide submissions at every stage of the process until the final report is released towards the end of 2019.

Now is the time to provide input and ensure decision makers have the best available information with which to make the best possible decision. Should bad decisions be made because no one has given the taskforce the right information in the first place then we will only have ourselves to blame.

While we do not know what the final recommendation of the Westport taskforce will be, Recfishwest will continue to fight to protect the fishing experiences provided by Cockburn Sound just as we have been doing for decades.

A few people have asked where Recfishwest stand on an Outer Harbor.

To read Recfishwest’s position on the Outer Harbour issue see below: 

Recfishwest Protecting Cockburn Sound_Outer Harbour Position_July 2018

 

Conservation Leads to the Return of a Natural Phenomenon

Images of thousands of Pink Snapper forming incredible spiralling vortexes on the surface have recently gone viral! These vortexes are huge spawning schools of snapper and are something that, up until the last few years, Australian fishers have rarely seen before and there is a very good reason why we are only just rediscovering this natural phenomenon!

Image: This diagram shows what is happening inside the snapper vortex.

Many species of fish return to the same location every year to spawn. For Pink Snapper, there are a few particularly special locations that we rely on every year to ensure the future of the wild stock for this species. Cockburn and Warnbro sounds are the largest and most important spawning grounds for Pink Snapper in the entire West Coast bioregion.

The late 1990’s saw West Australian Snapper fishers become increasingly concerned with the targeting of spawning fish in Cockburn Sound. Snapper come into the sound in great numbers through winter to begin their annual spawning activities in spring. This provided fishers with an easy opportunity to target these fish in a relatively calm, accessible location right on the doorstep of the metropolitan area.

As stewards of the marine environment, fishers of the day were uncomfortable with the amount of snapper being caught during the spring spawning period and approached Recfishwest to advocate for a spawning closure to protect these important breeding fish. It was the first closure driven by recreational fishers to ensure long-term protection for a species which they held so highly.

In 2000, the then Fisheries Minister Monty House supported the recreational fishing sectors call for the protection of the spawning snapper and implemented a fishing closure in Cockburn Sound from September 15 to October 30.  This decision was the catalyst for what is now one of the most highly regarded fisheries management arrangements in WA.

After 17 years and a few changes to the spawning closure, including the extension of the closure into January as well as the inclusion of Warnbro Sound, Pink Snapper are now amassing in numbers never seen by many local fishers. This has led to many fishers witnessing the spectacle that is spawning snapper for the first time in their lives.

As the snapper come together to spawn they begin to circle in the same direction close to the surface until they form a dense spiral of fish. The power of these fish is such that it creates a vortex in the centre of this aggregation. For many species of surface spawning fish, it is thought that this vortex assists the eggs in rising towards the surface more quickly than they would without the help of the vortex (Heyman et al. 2005). While these snapper vortexes are a natural phenomenon, they are something that most fishers across Australia have never seen in their lives. While Pink Snapper have always spawned in Cockburn and Warnbro sounds it has only been the last couple of years that this phenomenon has begun to be seen again and it is largely thanks to local fishers that we can witness this again.

Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland remembers the day this Snapper closure first came into play and commended the fishing community for driving the important decision.

“If it wasn’t for the foresight of a proactive fishing community 17 years ago, the story may be a little different, it’s something we all should be proud of,” Dr Rowland said.

The spiralling vortexes of snapper and great snapper fishing outside of seasonal closures suggest the stock is continuing on its road to recovery. As populations slowly return to a healthy level, who knows what we will discover next about this important and fascinating species.

Check it out for yourself, this footage was taken during this year’s spawning season by the team at www.ilovefishing.com.au

Read our world first project supporting Pink Snapper recovery:

Behind the Scenes: Snapper Guardians Egg Collection

Check out the latest Pink Snapper egg collection video from October 2017, where fertilised eggs are collected to contribute to our Snapper Guardians Program.

References:
Reef Fish Spawning Aggregations: Biology, Research and Management. 2012. Sadovy de Mitcheson. Y., Colin. P., Fish and Fisheries Series 35.
Spawning aggregations of Lutjanus cyanopterus (Cuvier) on the Belize Barrier Reef over a 6 year period. 2005. Heyman, W., Kjerfve. B., Graham. R., Rhodes. K., Garbutt. L. Journal of Fish Biology (2005) 67, 83—101

Snapper Release, a Sound Success!

 

Round 2 of the Snapper Guardians program was another huge success, with plenty more fish going into the waters of Cockburn Sound. The community came out in force as an estimated 800 people, comprising of mums, dads, kids, grandparents and fishing lovers, turned up to release 3000 juvenile snapper, this was in addition to the 47,000 fish that were released two weeks prior to the Snapper Guardians fish release.

The release went smoothly with hundreds of families turning up to release fish. This event shows just how much the community cares and are willing to roll up their sleeves, show stewardship and to give back to the environment which supports their fishing.

Cockburn Sound’s Pink Snapper stocks are one of the most important fisheries in WA as these waters are home to the largest spawning aggregations of snapper on the West Coast. Fishing for Pink Snapper off the Perth coast is continually improving and we believe this fishery could be the best Pink Snapper fishery in Australia.

To date 100,000 Pink Snapper have been grown out and released through the Snapper Guardians program.

Snapper Guardians is just one of many Recfishwest led initiatives working towards improving habitat and fish stocks which build better environments, that support your fishing.

We look forward to next year’s Snapper Guardian Release event, which like this year has been made possible thanks to funding from the state government.

50,000 Snapper for Cockburn, a Sound Investment

Another 50,000 juvenile Pink Snapper will be released into Cockburn Sound in February 2017 as the remarkable Snapper Guardians project continues its legacy. Dust off your Snapper Guardians shirt and bring your friends and family who may have missed it last year or who you simply want to share your passion with.

The project is a wonderful example of how seriously fishers take the stewardship of their marine resources and what can be done when the recreational fishing community comes together with a common goal.

The Snapper Guardians initiative was born out of the concerns of recreational fishers over the Cockburn Sound fish kill in late 2015, and their desire to protect this important metro fishery.

Recfishwest set up the crowd funding campaign and the community did the rest. Keen fishers dug deep into their own pockets to support the stocking of Cockburn Sound with baby Pink Snapper and the generosity of local fishers exceeded all expectations, showing just how much they care about fish stocks and the natural environment.

The funds required to make the project happen were raised through individual and corporate support in a matter of hours, surpassing all expectations. This then allowed us to develop a release event where the people could come down, roll up their sleeves, get in the water and release fish back into the wild.

Hundreds of people, including plenty of kids and families, turned up to the release of 5,000 juvenile Pink Snapper in Cockburn Sound, attracting widespread media coverage which showcased how recreational fishers were willing to give back to the resource they care about.

In all, 50,000 Pink Snapper raised at the Australian Centre for Applied Aquaculture Research in Fremantle were released.

Those baby snapper were the result of a previous trial project supported by Recfishwest (funded through the Recreational Fishing Initiatives Fund) to test egg collection methods for Pink Snapper eggs from Cockburn and Warnbro Sounds.

Coinciding with the fish kill tragedy, these eggs hatched and gave us the opportunity to grow the juvenile fish out to a size maximising their chance of survival in the wild.

The incredible community support and Recfishwest’s leadership in conducting the project has resulted in the State Government committing to provide full funding for Snapper Guardians to continue and another batch of juvenile pinkies are set to be released in February 2017.

One of the most satisfying aspects of last year’s Snapper Guardian program was the community release event where hundreds of children were able to directly release fish into the water. Once again Recfishwest will be holding a community release event on Saturday, February 11th at Woodman Point and everyone who loves fishing and Pink Snapper are once again invited.

Missed out last year or coming back to release more fish? Check out how you can be involved at this year’s release event below!

Event Details:

Where: Jervoise Bay, Woodman Point snap map

When: 9am-11am Saturday, 18th February 2017
Number of Fish Being Released: 3,000
What You Need to Bring: Family, Camera, Hat, Sunscreen, Snorkel for those who want to get in the water.

The Snapper Guardians story is one of which recreational fishers can be very proud. We’d love to see you and family down on the beach releasing your fish and please share with us your pics on the day. Simply take a pic, upload it to Facebook or Twitter, tag in @recfishwest or hashtag #Snapperguardians #Recfishwest #ilovefishing

Snapper Guardians FAQ’s

– Would all the eggs that hatched survived in the wild? No, in the wild survival is extremely low, only approximately 50 fish from the eggs collected would have survived. The amount of fish being released in this project would normally come from about 1.5 billion eggs.

– Why were eggs taken from Cockburn Sound only to be put back? An RFIF project to test egg sampling methods was carried out before the Cockburn Sound Fish Kills. Coincidently these eggs hatched and we had the opportunity to grow them to optimise their survival. This project protected the eggs through the most vulnerable stage of their lifecycle.

– How will we know if these fish will survive? They have been stained with a non-toxic coloured dye (you can’t see it). When a fish is captured in years to come and the otolith (ear bone) is removed, we’ll be able to identify these fish and know how successful this project has been.

Snapper Guardians: Egg Collection Success for 2017 Restocking Program

Following the success of last year’s Snapper Guardians program, Recfishwest and the Australian Centre for Applied Aquaculture Research (ACAAR) team are at it again having just collected a new batch of Pink Snapper eggs from spawning aggregations in Cockburn Sound. This year’s program looks to raise and release 100, 000 juvenile snapper by the end of summer.
After monitoring the snapper over the past few weeks, the moon phase, weather and spawning aggregations were ideal for attempting an egg collection. With astounding success, the eggs were collected in one night, achieving the desired amount for the project in one attempt. Not only is this great news that the program can be underway early, but also a good suggestion that large numbers of healthy breeding Pink Snapper are abundant.

In the wild, the number of snapper eggs that reach maturity is very low, especially during early egg, larval and juvenile stages when they are particularly vulnerable to predators. By collecting wild eggs and assisting them through these early life stages, the Snapper Guardians program greatly increases the likelihood of these eggs surviving to adulthood. This means more Pink Snapper in our waters and better fishing experiences for Western Australians.

The next stage in the project is growing out the juvenile fish. ACAAR staff will then mark the juvenile snappers’ otoliths (fish ear bones) with a dye so that the stocked fish will be identifiable when caught in the wild. Once the fish have been marked and grown out to a certain size they will be released early next year.

Earlier this year 50,000 juvenile Pink Snapper were released into Cockburn Sound and Warnbro Sound after being nurtured through their most vulnerable larvae and early juvenile stages. ACAAR were responsible for conducting the egg collections and guiding them through their growth stages with their world class aquaculture facilities.

The project is funded by the West Australian Government, who recently committed $300, 000 to fund Snapper Guardians over the next two years.

These are exciting times for West Australian fishers and Recfishwest with ACAAR, is proud to lead this world first program. Snapper Guardians proves that investing in effective fisheries science can have an astounding effect on improving the quality of sustainable fishing for all in the community.