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.

 

Cockburn Sound pink snapper and blue swimmer crab changes now in effect

Remember the latest management changes, including seasonal closures, for both pink snapper and blue swimmer crabs in the West Coast Bioregion came into effect on 1 September.

Both of these closures are critical in protecting spawning snapper and crabs, helping to secure the future of the fantastic fishing experiences both of these iconic recreational species offer in the metro area and South West.

To catch up on the latest pink snapper management changes click here.

To find out the about the blue swimmer crab management changes click here.

You can find a break-down on what these crab changes mean for your crabbing area here.

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.

Fishers Turn up to Voice Concerns Over Outer Harbour

Late last month, Recfishwest attended a workshop hosted by the Wesport Taskforce aimed at identifying risks to recreational fishing should a decision be made to build a port facility in Cockburn Sound.

The workshop was attended by interested fishers who were given an opportunity to raise concerns and identify risks posed by any proposed development.

Plenty of healthy, robust discussion took place as fishers were asked to rate perceived risks around seagrass and marine habitat, recreational fishing and boat access, protecting fish and spawning conditions, as well as general water quality in the Sound.

All of the risks were considered to be high by those attending, who explained the reasons behind their concerns.

Cockburn Sound is already under considerable pressure from a range of man-made causes and those who attended echoed the sentiments of the broader fishing community around the increased impact that an outer harbour development in Cockburn Sound might have.

Recfishwest welcomed the opportunity to put forward the views and concerns of fishers into this dedicated consultation process.

That said, Recfishwest will not support any development that further impacts on Cockburn Sound fishing experiences, this includes a new outer harbour development option.

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 available in Cockburn Sound.

Read our position on the Cockburn Sound Outer Harbour proposal here.

Future Focus for Gascoyne Pink Snapper

Pink snapper are the lifeblood of recreational fishing in the Gascoyne. These highly prized fish provide fantastic opportunity for both local and visiting fishers to tussle with a hard fighting, yet accessible sportfish that is also rated highly on the plate.

Managing our states fisheries is an exciting and challenging task

Readers might remember management changes for oceanic pink snapper were implemented last year, which included a snapper spawning closure north of Bernier Island, offshore from Carnarvon as well as a reduction in the allowable catch for the commercial fishing sector.

The community were consulted after a stock assessment indicated a risk to snapper numbers in the region, and agreed that these measures were appropriate to try and recover the snapper stock as quickly as possible. The spawning closure had over 96% support from the community. You can read more about it here.

Managing our states fisheries is an exciting and challenging task that takes place in a dynamic environment affected by many influences. This means that it’s important to constantly check-in on how management changes are affecting both our fish stocks and our fishing experiences.

In the case of Gascoyne pink snapper, Recfishwest recently met with the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development and representatives from the commercial fishing sector to further develop the recovery plan for the oceanic pink snapper resource in the Gascoyne region.

Recfishwest is proud to continue to work with all stakeholders to refine the recovery strategy in order to rebuild this snapper stock as soon as possible

This work includes reviewing current research and management actions, endorsing appropriate catch levels and timelines for future stock assessments and discussing future management to stimulate the fishery to recover at the desired rate.

Recfishwest is proud to continue to work with all stakeholders to refine the recovery strategy in order to rebuild this snapper stock as soon as possible.

Recreational fishing is an integral part of Carnarvon’s social fabric and local economy, so it’s vitally important that we balance the protection of this valuable resource with the opportunity to visit Carnarvon and fish in other places, or for different species. Through positive community engagement and consultation, this balance was achieved.

If you are planning on travelling to Carnarvon for a fishing trip, it is worth noting that the spawning closure is in effect from the 1st of June – 31st August. This doesn’t affect fishing for other species such as coral trout or red emperor.

Positive community engagement and consultation leads to better protection of these valuable fish

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).

Fisheries Wary Over Snapper Stocks

The Department of Fisheries today raised concerns over the robustness of pink snapper stocks along the west coast.

On the back of an announcement around the annual closure for pink snapper fishing in Cockburn and Warnbro Sounds, DPIRD Fisheries Management Officer Shane Walters had the following message for fishers.

“It’s important fishers understand pink snapper have variable recruitment with only one to two strong years each decade and the majority of the current West Coast pink snapper catch is attributed to a good recruitment year in 2005”

Mr Walters said recent research into pink snapper spawning activity in the Sounds and recreational fishing activity targeting pink snapper aggregations, prior to the spawning closure, may require a review of the closure to ensure the species nursery is adequately protected.

Recreational fishers have a long history of protecting pink snapper stocks on the west coast, with the implementation of the Cockburn and Warnbro Sound spawning closures being driven by recreational fishers after witnessing large catches of spawning fish during spring.

Recfishwest will continue to work with Fisheries to ensure that snapper stocks are managed appropriately to ensure the current level of high quality fishing remains.

A stock assessment for all west coast demersal scalefish, including pink snapper is due shortly.

Read the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (Fisheries Division) media statement here.

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

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

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…

———————————————————————————-

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

 

Carnarvon Pink Snapper Update

In our last monthly broadcast, we asked the community their thoughts on having a three month closure to protect spawning aggregations of pink snapper in the Gascoyne Region (read it all here).

This follows a recent stock assessment completed by DPIRD (Fisheries) which indicated a risk to snapper sustainability, creating a concern for both Recfishwest and the Carnarvon fishing community.

Pink Snapper are the lifeblood of recreational fishing in the Gascoyne and provide fantastic opportunity for both local and visiting fishers to tussle with a hard fighting, yet accessible sportfish that is also rated highly on the plate.

The Proposal

Pink Snapper spawning aggregation in Cockburn Sound during their spawning closure. (Image courtesy WA Gov news)

Fisheries proposed a closure to pink snapper fishing north of Bernier Island, including Koks Island, during the peak spawning period from 1 June to 31 August. Bernier Island is located approximately 50 kilometres off the coast from Carnarvon.

Similar closures have been effective in protecting pink snapper aggregations in Cockburn and Warnbro Sounds in the Perth metropolitan area and the inner gulfs of Shark Bay.

The proposed closed area represents about 2-4 per cent of the total area fished by all sectors in the Gascoyne Coast Bioregion, however up to 70 per cent of the commercial pink snapper catch is taken from these waters during the peak spawning period.

This proposal does not impact on fishing for other species such as Coral Trout and Red Emperor.

Read the full fisheries proposal here.


Community Feedback and Our Position

The people of Carnarvon love fishing and genuinely care about healthy fisheries. Local fishers have shown an overwhelming willingness to be part of the solution for recovering the pink snapper fishery. This was highlighted in the responses to our community survey which indicated 96% support for the proposal to protect pink snapper spawning aggregations.

After reviewing the community responses, we’re happy to provide you with our response back to Government on the proposed spawning closure. Recfishwest supports this proposal and believes it is important to protect this Pink Snapper breeding stock to ensure great fishing experiences for all in the West Australian community forever.

Read it here .11.04.18 DPIRD – Recfishwest Advice on Proposed Mgt Gascoyne Oceanic Pink Snapper Stock