Recfishwest’s world first marine citizen science program “Reef Vision” is a research project that uses recreational fishers to collect video footage of the fish and marine life on artificial reefs to assist in the monitoring and development of the reefs.
Earlier this month, Recfishwest and project partners celebrated the launch of Peel Reef Vision in Mandurah with an information and training workshop held at the Mandurah Offshore Fishing and Sailing Club (MOFSC). Keen local volunteers have already dropped cameras on the Mandurah Artificial Reef giving us a greater understanding on how this reef is developing and learning what fish species are using the reefs.
Tackle World Miami are kindly providing bait and advice to volunteers, enabling them to collect this footage of the reefs using their new specialised baited underwater video cameras.
Recfishwest and Murdoch University are again partnering to deliver the Peel Reef Vision program providing an excellent level of academic rigour to the program. Murdoch are also managing our 2019 Southwest Reef Vision program that monitors the Dunsborough and Bunbury artificial reefs.
Peel Reef Vision volunteers have already recorded a range of species that use the reef including pink snapper, skippy, john dory, flathead, whiting and an octopus!
This new addition to the Reef Vision program compliments the existing community monitoring programs currently underway on artificial reefs deployed in Esperance, Exmouth, Dunsborough and Bunbury.
We would like to give a special thanks to the MOFSC for hosting the Reef Vision information eveningt. The club have been an invaluable part of the deployment of the Mandurah artificial reef, and now with monitoring the reef’s development.
Peel Reef Vision is funded by the Recreational Fishing Initiatives Fund and supported by the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development and Recfishwest.
Management needed for better protection of female crabs
Perth to Geographe Bay
Community to have their say
Recreational fishing surveys since 2011 have consistently shown Blue Swimmer Crabs are far and away the most caught species by fishers around Western Australia.
A discussion paper released by the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) on October 25th has called into question the suitability of current management arrangements for Blue Swimmer Crabs on the lower West Coast and highlighted an urgent need to better protect breeding stocks.
The discussion paper highlights a particular concern about the current level of protection provided to mated, pre-spawn female crabs which become highly vulnerable to capture in late autumn, winter and spring. Recfishwest has voiced concerns about the level of protection provided to mated pre-spawn crabs for over a decade.
DPIRD’s discussion paper has considered the following five options for better protecting crab breeding stocks on the lower west coast: :
Increase in the Minimum Legal Size (MLS)
Reducing fishing effort for all sectors when female crabs are vulnerable to capture
Patchwork closures for where female crabs aggregate
Broad-scale area closures when females are more vulnerable to capture
Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland said attention is being focused across the entire lower west coast crab resource to ensure all areas of breeding stock vulnerability are addressed and includes all estuaries and ocean fishing for crabs from Perth to Geographe Bay.
“Our priority here are the crabs and looking after important breeding stock,” Dr Rowland said.
“Blue Swimmer Crabs are the most caught species in WA by rec fishers, so it’s important to balance protection of the stock with great community fishing experiences with access to high abundances of crabs.”
In weighing up the options, the Department has identified broad scale seasonal closures (May to Nov) as the most balanced option to achieve the desired objective.
Recfishwest have developed an online survey asking people how they want their crab fisheries managed and protected into the future and we will continue to represent the communities views about how they want this important public resource managed.
Given that these fisheries account for around 90% of the state’s recreational crab catch, we urge you to have your say.
Recfishwest Vision – Bigger Better Crabs for Peel Harvey
Minister Prioritises and Protects Family Fishing Experiences
The Right Abundances in the Right Places
Recfishwest welcomes today’s announcement from Fisheries Minister Dave Kelly, to establish a buyback scheme for commercial fishing licences in the Peel-Harvey Estuary. This announcement honours an important election commitment the McGowan government made to recreational fishers.
The Peel Harvey Estuary is the spiritual home of recreational crabbing with thousands of family’s flocking to Mandurah every year to enjoy the experience of catching their own seafood across the summer months.
Recfishwest Operations Manager Leyland Campbell commended the Minister and his actions.
“Crabbing and fishing in the estuary is the lifeblood of the region and today’s announcement means more Blue Swimmer Crabs and Yellowfin Whiting will be left in the water for fishing families.”
“Recfishwest have been calling for change to management arrangements in this fishery for over a decade and by honouring their election commitment the McGowan Government are supporting safe, accessible and enjoyable fishing experiences for all West Aussies.”
“The scheme is designed to allocate more Blue Swimmer Crabs and Yellowfin Whiting to recreational fishing families and is a positive first step in bringing big crabs back to the region.” Mr Campbell said.
Recfishwest are happy with the creation of a mechanism allowing recreational fishing licence money to assist with resolving resource reallocation issues. This sets an important and positive precedence for restoring the right balance between commercial and recreational fishing.
Recfishwest looks forward to continuing to work with the Minster and the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development to ensure greater recreational fishing experiences in the region.
Recfishwest’s world first marine citizen science program ‘Reef Vision’ is set to launch in the Peel Region in October 2017. It’s only missing one thing – you! To kick off Peel Reef Vision we need passionate and committed fishers to help showcase the development and success of the Mandurah Artificial Reef and do their part for fishing and science.
The Peel Reef Vision Program will build on the two successful and ongoing Reef Vision monitoring programs on the Dunsborough and Bunbury Artificial Reefs.
The remarkable reefs bringing new life to our coastline. The artificial reefs are attracting fish in increasing numbers and in what's believed to be a world first, scientists are calling on the community to help monitor them.
Reef Vision is a research project that uses passionate fishers to collect vital and exciting footage of the fish and marine life on artificial reefs to assist in the monitoring and development of the reefs.
“To date, Reef Vision volunteers have collected over 400 hours of valuable footage from 212 videos of the Bunbury and Dunsborough reefs. These videos have revealed over 34,000 individual fish from 82 different species including Dhufish, Samson Fish, Baldchin Groper, Pink Snapper and large schools of Mulloway.”
What the volunteers actually do?
Reef Vision volunteers throw specialised baited underwater camera systems out from their boat and record an hour of video footage over the artificial reefs while they are fishing. This footage is later analysed by university researchers and students to see what fish are using the reefs.
“This was something that I could do to give back to the community, the more the community can do to help out, the better it is for us as fishers and for the future of our fisheries” Reef Vision volunteer Garry Dyer.
Recfishwest’s Research Officer James Florisson says these passionate volunteers are contributing to real science, in an effort to make fishing better in WA. They are the key to this programs success.
“It’s important for us to know what’s happening on these reefs, and it’s even more important that the volunteers are enjoying their time collecting the footage for us; they’re the backbone of Reef Vision and we can’t thank them enough,” James said.
How Do You Get Involved?
If you would like to be involved and participate in the new Peel Reef Vision Program or to find out more about the program, please email email@example.com
Reef Vision Supporters
Recfishwest would like to thank all of our project partners who have assisted with Reef Vision to date and who have offered support for the new Peel Reef Vision program.
The project is supported by the RFIF, DPIRD, FRDC and Ecotone Consulting who assisted in the development of Reef Vision in the South West.
Mandurah Offshore Fishing and Sailing Club (MOFSC) and Port Bouvard Recreation and Sporting Club have dedicated the time and effort to not only assist with establishing Reef Vision in the Peel Region but who were also involved in the early stages, including site selection and deployment of the Mandurah Artificial Reef. MOFSC members will assist in monitoring for Peel Reef Vision.
Alcoa have thrown their support behind establishing Peel Reef Vision by providing camera equipment and technology, as well as staff who have assisted in trials for the project. Alcoa volunteer Chris Daou says he’s been fishing and monitoring the Bunbury and Dunsborough reefs since the beginning and he’s been amazed to see how they have developed.
“Having the opportunity to assist in trialing Reef Vision in the Peel Region has provided me with great insight into how science can be used to benefit the environment, fish and fishing,” Chris said.
Murdoch University and Curtin University are research partners with Reef Vision. Data collected on the reefs is analysed by university researchers and students.
Men Shed Forrestdale and First Marine have been getting involved in Artificial Reefs by lending their experience and knowledge to help make and improve equipment for Artificial Reef monitoring for the Reef Vision volunteers.
Dunsborough Outdoor Sportz and Whitey’s Tackle Australind kindly provided equipment and prizes which has enabled volunteers to collect footage of these reefs using the baited underwater cameras, both stores have been very supportive and important partners.
Most importantly, thank you to all the volunteers whose efforts and dedication to the cause are a major factor to the success of Reef Vision!
It is hard to find a better way to spend your summer afternoons than wading the estuary flats with a crab scoop in hand. In fact, crabbing for Blue Swimmer Crabs (Portunus armatus) is one of the most popular fishing activities in Western Australia.
Stocking of many of WA’s favourite finfish has occurred across the state with Pink Snapper, Black Bream, Barramundi and Mulloway all being stocked, yet there has been no stocking of crabs. Given their popularity and the importance of crabbing to WA culture, investigating possible stocking options for Blue Swimmer Crabs was identified as a way to enhance crabbing and crab stocks in WA.
Recently the Australian Centre for Applied Aquaculture Research (ACAAR) at South Metropolitan TAFE received a grant from the Recreational Fishing Initiatives Fund (RFIF) to identify future restocking options for Blue Swimmer Crabs. Since the culturing of Blue Swimmer Crabs from berried broodstock had never been done in WA, this project would first investigate if this process was feasible, and if successful, result in the first stocking of crabs in WA.
Collecting the broodstock
• With assistance from Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) Division of Fisheries, a handful of wild berried broodstock were collected from the Peel Harvey Estuary and transported to ACAAR’s facility in Fremantle
• The berried females arrived full of eggs at an early stage of development when the eggs are still yellow (Figure 1). Conditions and temperature in the tank were then altered to assist the crabs developing their eggs to a later stage where the eggs turn a darker colour and are ready for spawning (Figure 2).
From hatching to release
• Once the eggs hatch, the earliest stages of a crab’s life cycle begins to be visible when viewed through a microscope. This first stage (below) of a crab’s journey is called a Zoea and resembles something more closely out of an Alien movie than of a crab. At this stage, the Zoea have limited ability to move to avoid predators and find food and are at the mercy of their environment. Hatchery conditions and food availability must be carefully managed during this vulnerable stage.
• Day by day the Zoea continue to grow and develop and after 12 days they make their next big transformation as part of their life cycle, metamorphosing into a Megalopa. At this stage they are starting to look much more similar to their parents having grown biting claws and gained the ability swim freely.
• After 19 days from hatching, the project reached an important milestone with the Megalopa undergoing their final metamorphose into a Crablet. This is a dangerous stage in the development of the crabs as the crablets quickly become highly cannibalistic and aggressive, apparently maximising the use of their newly grown claws.
• From the broodstock crabs that contributed to the spawning, the final stage of the projects saw the release of 3700 crablets into the Peel Harvey Estuary.
The success of this WA first project has opened the door to future potential restocking programs for crabs that could play a role in continuing to create great fishing experiences for the WA community forever. A second project, also funded through licence fees aims to release up to 100,000 crabs into Metropolitan waters and start to design a larger scale stocking program for WA.
This project was funded through the RFIF and supported by DPIRD, Division of Fisheries and Recfishwest.
A lengthy winter and lower than average water temperature is predicted to cause a slow start to Crabbing this season. The iconic Mandurah crab fishery opened on November 1st, however fishers are not expected to encounter good numbers of legal sized crabs for at least another month.
It is important to recognise that many crabs will still currently be undersize, and that your crabbing efforts may be better spent later in the season. Crabs grow rapidly as water temperatures warm up in late December and January and this is considered the best time to fish for crabs. Whenever you go crabbing remember to always carry a crab gauge and measure the crabs correctly from point to point on the carapace (body) to ensure they are larger than the minimum legal size of 127mm.
Be sure to abide by the personal bag limit of 10 and boat limit of 20 crabs, and a maximum of 10 pots is allowed per person/boat. A Recreational Boat Fishing Licence is required if taking or transporting crabs by boat.
New rules regarding the immediate release of protected crabs are now in effect, meaning that undersize and berried (egg-carrying) crabs must be released as soon as they are caught before resuming fishing. It is also important to know that uncooked crabs MUST be maintained whole and not dissected or altered in any form prior to preparation for consumption.
Lastly, it is always important to be mindful in your fishing activities and respect the environment in which you are accessing. The surrounding environment adjacent to crab habitat is also important for a host of other fish, invertebrate and bird species and there are many environmental groups actively working at restoring much of the riparian vegetation and coastal plants that help to maintain the health and function of our estuaries.
Groups like the Peel Harvey Catchment Councilare actively involved in some of these efforts and we urge fishers to think before you step, and use designated access points to your fishing grounds in order to preserve the delicate plants that are invaluable to improving the fishing environment.
RECFISHWEST is thrilled the Peel-Harvey Estuary’s iconic Blue Swimmer Crab fishery has been recognised as the world’s first internationally certified sustainable recreational and commercial combined fishery in June 2016. The certification awarded to both the Mandurah Licensed Fisherman’s Association and Recfishwest, who were co-clients in the process, by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). The MSC is an independent, international non-profit organisation established to safeguard healthy fish stocks.
The Peel-Harvey blue swimmer crab fishery is the most popular WA recreational fishery and also provides a livelihood for 10 commercial crab licence holders. Receiving this world-first certification ensures the longevity of this fishery and Recfishwest has been an enthusiastic supporter of the process, which protects and promotes sustainable and enjoyable fishing opportunities for the WA community.
Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland said he was thrilled with the announcement but more we can’t rest on our morels and continued best-practised need to be maintained.
“This was never an exercise in achieving sustainability or gaining approval of being sustainable, this was an exercise in ensuring that correct management measures are maintained and improved if need be to ensure people can come to Mandurah with the confidence that their crabs are here to stay,” Dr Rowland said.
Mandurah Licensed Fisherman’s Association President Damien Bell and long-time crab fisher said seeing the certification finally come to fruition in line with good science with a sustainability outcome for both sectors is a win – win.
“We have been providing WA with some of the best, most sustainable seafood for many years and we wouldn’t be here today if we weren’t sustainable in our practices and I’m proud that the fishery has been recognised by an independent third party as sustainable” Mr Bell said.
It is the first recreational fishery in the world to gain recognition through the Marine Stewardship Council certification program. The MSC certification gives the community reassurance they can continue to do so for years to come at the same time as remaining compatible with the outstanding environmental values of the estuary.
For more on MSC and other certified fisheries, click here.
Recfishwest welcomes today’s announcement by new Fisheries Minister Joe Francis, that the much anticipated Mandurah artificial reef is to be deployed in the coming days. The Australian made Mandurah reef will be a carbon copy of the Bunbury and Dunsborough reefs which are already proving to be a hit with fishers. The 3m x 3m purpose built cubic concrete reef modules are on their way to their reef site, currently an underwater sandy desert only 9km from WA’s second largest city.
Recfishwest Chief Executive Officer Dr Andrew Rowland said the preferred location was carefully selected in consultation with the Mandurah Offshore Fishing and Sailing Club, the Port Bouvard Fishing Club as well as various community stakeholders.
“The local fishing community has real ownership of this development and has provided expert advice so that this new reef maximises fishing opportunities for everyone in the region.” Dr Rowland said.
“The Mandurah reef will be 9km from shore in an area easily accessible for families with small boats leaving from either the Mandurah Estuary mouth or the Dawesville Cut,” Dr Rowland said.
“Once deployed, the reef will develop into a complex marine habitat in a short time supporting a diverse fish community, which will provide new fishing opportunities for many iconic fish species including Pink Snapper, Skippy and Samson fish.”
“This project has been a long time in the making and Recfishwest and the community are thankful for the strong support from local MP and keen fisher Dr Kim Hames.”
“Recfishwest and the wider fishing public are extremely pleased that recreational fishing licence money is being reinvested into projects that enhance the recreational fishing experience,”
“These types of projects are highly valued by the community.” Dr Rowland said.