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!

The WA community have a close affiliation with Cockburn Sound, with plenty of good work done previously to protect Pink Snapper stocks.  Recfishwest’s Snapper Guardians initiative, spawning closures, and support for strict management are proof the fishing community value the Pink Snapper fishery of Cockburn Sound.

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  trail 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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Fish Friendly Farms Launch in Albany

Marron, Bream and a variety of favourite freshwater natives require healthy waterways to thrive. Native fish populations are at risk of serious declines if land management doesn’t reflect waterway values. For many species, this decline is largely attributed to the loss and degradation of their habitat and poor environmental condition of waterways.

In the past some practices carried out by landholders have had the potential to degrade aquatic habitat, thus playing a part in the loss of native fish. Further, some of these practices are detrimental to farm productivity, for example clearing riparian (shoreline) vegetation contributes to erosion, loss of soils and nutrients and may cause instability of riverbanks. For species such as Marron, riparian vegetation and snags play an important role.

As well as filtering out nutrients and pollutants, riparian vegetation provides shade and cooler temperatures for shallow rivers in summer while snags provide important hides from introduced predators such as Redfin Perch. Maintaining healthy fish habitat and good water quality is essential to supporting productive fisheries.

Many farmers have a strong connection to their local waterway with fishing often making up an important part of their culture within their families. The ‘Fish Friendly Farms’ program aims to engage local farmers in the best farming practices to maximise the health of native fish and their habitats in rivers and creeks that pass through their properties or are affected in the catchment. The Fish Friendly Farms program is funded through the Recreational Fishing Initiatives Fund and supported by the Department of Fisheries and Recfishwest, in partnership with Ozfish Unlimited and Southcoast Natural Resource Management.

Early this month the first stage of the program got underway in Albany with a community forum held at the Albany Boating and Offshore Fishing Club. Bryn Warnock from Southcoast Natural Resource Management and Jim Allen owner of Albany Bait and Tackle talked to attendees about the program and the close links that some farming practices may have on some of our favourite fisheries.

Participants discussed actions that could be undertaken to protect and enhance water quality and aquatic habitat including:
o Preventing stock access to waterways (reduces bank erosion and prevents direct nutrient addition via effluent in the water and on the banks)
o Managing and restoring degraded riparian vegetation
o Ensuring snags are left in the river to provide habitat
o Weed management to enhance natural regrowth of riparian vegetation

The next stages of the program will involve a workshop run at a demonstration site with local landholders and farmers as well as looking for local fishers to help out with fish habitat restoration works.

If you are interested in being involved in the program, please get in contact with Recfishwest Habitat Officer, Michael Tropiano michael@recfishwest.org.au

Fishers Want Better Habitat & Better Fishing

What’s your best session fishing for black bream? Can you imagine a session catching over 100 fish, where the bream averaged over 1 kg each…with some up to 2 kg’s?

Local fishers from Albany and surrounds wanting to learn more about why fishing has changed in the area and what can be done to bring back the glory days came down to the Fishers for Fish Habitat Forum held in Albany earlier this month. The forum, which was run by a partnership between Ozfish Unlimited and Recfishwest, provided a unique opportunity for fishers and habitat experts to come together and combine their knowledge to try and work out the key drivers for changes in the quality of local fishing and what could be done to bring back lost fish habitat and better fishing.

The knowledge local fishers have about changes in the quality of fishing in the area provided a rare insight into how big an impact changes in fish habitat have actually had on fishing. An important part of discussions was led by Western Angler editor Scott Coghlan who talked with local veteran Jim Allan and bream young gun Callum Dowell on their perspectives on changes in the area. Both Jim and Callum had noticed significant changes in the quality of fishing and fish habitat over the years. Jim told tales about some epic bream fishing that used to be available around Albany in years gone by including bream that averaged over 1 kg each, with some pushing 2 kg’s while Callum said at its best it wasn’t unusual to catch over 100 fish in a session! Jim suggested that in terms of habitat loss, one of the key changes that had led to a reduction in the quality of fishing was the huge loss of seagrass in Oyster Harbour, while decreases in rainfall were also hurting the system. Callum had noticed similar changes and noted that on some of the flats he fished the sand had changed over the years from being hard and course to soft mud.

It was amazing to see how close the changes seen by fishers matched with what had been seen by the habitat experts, who further discussed how these changes fit in with the changes in fish habitat. Local seagrass expert, Geoff Bastyan, reinforced the changes seen by Jim to seagrass in the harbour and showed how with the right support, it was possible to bring back much of this lost habitat. There was also some great discussion about the import role bringing back oyster reefs will have on the harbour with Black Bream, Skippy and Yakka’s already seen investigating the developing reefs.

Karen McKeogh from the Department of Water also led a great discussion about how modifications to the Torbay lakes meant that a highly productive system went from producing Murray Cod up to 1.3m to now having health warnings. This forum highlighted the importance of sharing the knowledge fishers have about the changes they have seen in their local systems and their eagerness to bring back some of the lost crucial fish habitat, and better fishing. If you know a fish habitat in your local waterway that needs to be restored, talk to locals in your community and get in contact with the Recfishwest Habitat Officer Michael Tropiano to see what can be done in to bring back fish habitat and better fishing.

Everyone at the forum was hugely appreciative of the members of the Albany Boating and Offshore Fishing Club for hosting the event and all their assistance in running the forum and for support for the event from The Nature Conservancy and the Fisheries Research and Development Commission.