Better Fishing For Bunbury

The South-west of Western Australia has one of the largest recreational fishing communities in WA with plenty of fishing opportunities in some of the state’s most picturesque settings. From marron to mulloway, the South-west provides something for every fishers taste. A recent report indicates that local residents in the area spend at least $305 million on fishing each year.

The largest population centre in the South-west is the City of Bunbury, which also has its own large population of passionate and enthusiastic anglers as well as tourists who travel from Perth or the Wheatbelt.

Up until recent times, limited offshore habitat meant that boat fishers were travelling long distances for good fishing, whilst the loss of traditional shore based fishing platforms meant fishers and crabbers needing to find alternative places to fish.

There is however, finally a brighter future for fishing in Bunbury.

Deployed in April 2013, the Bunbury Artificial Reef is the most fished artificial reef in WA, with a third of local boat fishers having tried their luck on the reef.

In good news for fishers, this reef has now been expanded to create extra fish habitat and fishing opportunities thanks to Federal funding awarded by Regional Development Australia.

The reef’s fishable area has been increased by 50%, with 90 low relief concrete modules added to the original 30, ten tonne ‘Fish Boxes’.

The expansion will make fishing even better by creating larger amounts of complex fish habitat and better connectivity across the entire reef. More than 60 species have already been observed on the reef and the additional modules will now increase the number and types of fish found on the reef while allowing a greater number of boats to fish the reef.

Demersal species such as harlequin, breaksea cod and baldchin groper are expected to be found in larger numbers on the reef, joining already abundant skippy, samson fish, mulloway, King George whiting and pink snapper.

The new modules will also allow scientists to discover how fish species respond to different reef modules and better understand how the reef creates a productive marine ecosystem. This information will be used to make artificial reefs and marine infrastructure more efficient in the future – a win win for both the environment and the fishing community.

It’s not just good news for boat fishers though. While delayed, the Koombana Bay Community Fishing and Crabbing Platform is due to start soon.

Fishing and crabbing are an important part of the coastal lifestyle and dedicated infrastructure for undertaking these activities is highly valued by the community.

Discussions around the platform originally begun with the loss of amenity due to the demolition of the timber jetty which originally stood in Koombana Bay.

The City of Bunbury has been in discussions with regards to the ‘Transforming Bunbury Waterfront’ program with State Government. The project will finally commence this May providing fishers of all abilities safe, accessible and enjoyable fishing opportunities.

Fishing is woven into the cultural fabric of Bunbury and the South-west and the expansion of the Bunbury artificial reef and construction of the Koombana Bay Community fishing and Crabbing Platform is just the start to making fishing even better in the region.

Peel Reef Vision – Monitoring Underway

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.

A variety of species including skippy, flathead and juvenile pink snapper captured on camera by Peel Reef Vision volunteers on the Mandurah Artificial Reef

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.

Footage already collected by Peel Reef Vision volunteers showing the growth on the Mandurah Artificial Reef modules and a curious octopus

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.

Plenty of juvenile snapper captured on camera by Peel Reef Vision volunteers on the Mandurah Artificial Reef. By using a network of dedicated community volunteers to monitor our reefs as they develop we are able to obtain regular footage of a reef’s development and we often get some really amazing shots such as the images in this article

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.

Interested in our world first Reef Vision program? Find out more by emailing steph@recfishwest.org.au

A juvenile dhufish coming in for a closer look at the baited camera

 

To see more underwater footage of various artificial reefs and some of the species calling them home, visit the Artificial Reefs WA Facebook page.

To read more about Artificial Reef Monitoring click here or Citizen Science Programs here.

See what’s biting on our other artificial reefs:

40 Species seen on Exmouth’s newest fishing playground

Rottnest Fish Towers Fire Up!

 

Mandurah Artificial Reef

The Mandurah Artificial Reef has been deployed. At a total cost of just over $1.1 million, the reef is the first in Western Australia to be solely paid for by the recreational fishing community. The reefs were funded through the Recreational Fishing Initiatives Fund by recreational fishing licence fees.

The purpose-built reef consists of 30 cubic reinforced concrete modules, arranged in clusters of five modules. Each module is 3m x 3m x 3m, weighs 10 tonnes, has a surface area of 30m2 and has an internal volume of 27m3.

The module design is the same as those used in the south west artificial reefs, being a hollow cube with curved cross braces. The design is aimed to promote upwelling (bringing nutrient rich water from the sea floor to the surface creating phytoplankton and zooplankton blooms, providing the basis for productive food chains) as well as create varied complex spaces and habitats which act as shelter for fish.

The reef is located 9km from shore being easily accessible for boats leaving from the Mandurah Estuary mouth or the Dawesville Cut. In 25m depth the reef is spread across four hectares of barren desert-like seafloor which had little marine life prior to reef deployment.

The deployment of the reefs, announced by the Fisheries Minister, the Honourable Joe Francis MLA, was the last stage of a long community driven process to get the reefs in the water. Both Port Bouvard Recreation and Sporting Club as well as the Mandurah Offshore Fishing and Sailing Club (MOFSC) consulted with Recfishwest on reef location with volunteers from MOFSC even dropping cameras to the seafloor to find the ideal site characteristics for the reef.

Strong support also came from local MP and keen fisher, the Honourable Dr Kim Hames. The reef had support from a large amount of stakeholder organisations including the Western Australian Department of Fisheries, City of Mandurah, Tourism WA and the Mandurah and Peel Tourism Organisation as well as many others.

With the same modules in a similar depth to the successful south west artificial reefs, the Mandurah Artificial Reef is expected to develop into a complex marine habitat supporting a diverse fish community providing fishing opportunities for iconic species such as Pink Snapper, Skippy, Dhufish, Baldchin Groper and Samson Fish. Prior to the deployment of the Dunsborough and Bunbury artificial reefs only a dozen fish species were identified at the deployment locations. Three years later over 60 species have called these reefs home. As the Mandurah reef has been constructed from the same modules and placed in a similar depths we are confident the Mandurah reef will experience the same success.

It will take surprisingly little time for the new reefs to be inhabited by fish and colonised by algae, sponges and corals. Within two months of deploying the reefs off Dunsborough and Bunbury, pelagic species such as Samson Fish and Skippy were observed on the reefs as well as large amounts of bait holding up in the modules. In only 6 months, large amounts of algae had colonised the modules and demersal fish such as Dhufish were seen on the reefs. In just over a year, coralline algae, sponges and bryozoans appeared on the reefs.  Now over 60 different fish species including slower colonisers such as Blue Groper, Octopus and Wobbegongs have been identified on these reefs.

The Mandurah Artificial Reef is Australian made with the modules being designed by an Australian company called the Haejoo Group, built in WA at MJB industries in Australind, deployed by Perth based company Subcon Ptyltd who used staff and vessels from Total AMS.

The local fishing community has had real ownership of the development of the reef as well as provide expert advice to maximise the fishing opportunities for everyone in the region. There is no doubt that the Mandurah fishing community will grow a sense of stewardship for the reef as it continues to develop.

The reefs will also assist the broader local community by bringing benefits to local businesses and the economy by increased fishing tourism in the Peel Region. The artificial reefs provide not only an opportunity for ecological growth on the modules but also social and economic growth for the community.