Jetty owners boost shellfish numbers in Western Australia

JETTY owners in the Peel-Harvey estuary, near Mandurah, are playing a key role in boosting shellfish numbers and supporting native fish populations in the region.

OzFish, Australia’s recreational fishing conservation charity, engaged members of the local community, including more than 50 jetty owners, to get directly involved in its innovative habitat restoration initiative.

Called “Pimp My Jetty”, the initiative involved owners agreeing to host a hanging shellfish habitat under their private jetty. OzFish volunteers then constructed and installed eco-friendly hanging habitats, made of natural rope, at 51 jetties across the area.

The natural fibres of the rope provide an ideal surface for mussel larvae and for maturing mussels to grow on. As more mussels create homes on the new hanging habitats, it leads to more mussel spat in the estuary and helps to revive the once thriving shellfish population.

The mussels also improve water quality through filtering it and provide an increased high-quality food source that supports black bream and other native fish numbers.

Steve Pursell, OzFish program manager for WA, believes the success of this year’s project underlines what can be achieved when recreational fishers, local communities, and scientists work together.

“We have been pleased by the numbers of private jetty owners who came forward to be involved – it shows they understand the importance of healthy habitats in our waterways,” he said.

“Not only do mussels play a key role in filtering and improving the water quality, research shows they once made up 64 per cent of black bream’s diet in the area but that is now as low as 19 per cent.

“That means fish are now more reliant on algae as a food source and that’s not as beneficial to black bream and other native fish. By restoring habitat, our volunteers are helping to create better fishing,” said Pursell.

The marine ecosystem in the Peel-Harvey estuary has been negatively impacted by an excess of nutrients which has led to an increase in growth of microorganisms. These microorganisms, particularly algae, cover hard surface areas in the water and make it very difficult for local shellfish to attach themselves and inhabit the area.

The natural fibres of the hanging habitats help to address that issue.

Healthy mussel stocks are an essential part of aquatic food webs, but also filter pollutants and nutrients from the water to improve the overall health of the waterway. More mussels mean more fish.

The Pimp My Jetty project is funded by Navico, Recfishwest, the Western Australian Government’s Royalties for Regions program, and BCF – Boating, Camping, Fishing. It is supported by Peel Harvey Catchment Council.

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