WA anglers needed to help restore fish habitat

HUNDREDS of West Australian recreational fishers are preparing to take part in a massive habitat restoration project to restore critical fish habitat in Cockburn Sound.

Led by Australia’s dedicated fishing conservation organisation, OzFish Unlimited, the plan titled “Seeds for Snapper” will see local anglers collect and release 1 million seagrass seeds back into the waterway in a bid to create healthy habitat for the highly prized pink snapper along with many other species of fish.

The Seeds for Snapper” project will see local anglers collect and release 1 million seagrass seeds back into Cockburn Sounds in a bid to create healthy habitat.

OzFish Unlimited’s Senior Program Manager, Andrew Matthews, said the project was a first of its kind for Australia and is a collaborative effort that has involved the University of Western Australia, Recfishwest and Australia’s largest outdoor retailer, BCF.

“We have a proud and passionate recreational fishing community that understands how important habitat is to the future of the sport, which is why we expect to see hundreds of anglers put their hands up to take part in this program. It’s their incredible passion that is helping the OzFish movement of “Better Habitat Better Fishing” take off here in WA.

“All they need to do to register and get involved is to head to our website.”

Mr Matthews said Cockburn Sound had lost around 80% of its seagrass habitat since the 1960s, down from 4000 ha originally to 900 ha today, a loss that has impacted heavily on pink snapper that rely on the meadows for feeding and breeding.

Seagrass flowers and seeds are most commonly seen floating together as mats.

The Seeds for Snapper solution was designed with the assistance of UWA’s marine scientists, who have spent the last decade researching seagrass restoration and recently developed a cost-effective method of direct seeding seagrass by enlisting the support of recreational anglers.

The program gained the attention of BCF, which has helped fund the habitat project by launching a national “Give Back to Habitat” campaign in all stores that gives customers a way to donate towards protecting and restoring habitat in Australia’s waterways.

Managing Director of BCF Anthony Heraghty said the value of the “Give Back to Habitat” initiative was in seeing projects like Seeds for Snapper in Cockburn Sounds get off the ground.

“We are supporting recreational fishers who want to get active in restoring fish habitat and, with over 20 projects now underway or planned around Australia, the future for fish is looking brighter.”

Marine Ecologist Dr John Statton from UWA has been working on seagrass restoration for several years and said previous methods had been cost prohibitive but with the help of recreational anglers he is hopeful to see habitat restored.

“It’s so pleasing to be part of a community based project which will benefit the sustainability of important species such as pink snapper.”

Recfishwest who led the highly successful “Snapper Guardians” stock enhancement program, during which the community funded and released thousands of juvenile pink snapper back into Cockburn Sound, is also supportive of the project.

Recfishwest’s CEO Andrew Rowland said the community highly values the fishery and has expectations that it be managed sustainably for future generations.

A barren sandy floor with little seagrass coverage; a great reason to have a go and see if the trial works!



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