WA Artificial Reef Trial Feeds Fish Frenzy

WA artificial reef youtube
  • Article by Roland Bleyer
  • May 11, 2015 at 3:16 PM

An artificial reef trial in Western Australia has more than quadrupled the number of fish species in the area, with the state government saying it is “building a welcoming habitat for fish and giving anglers new fishing spots”.

WA Fisheries Minister Ken Baston says the success of $1.8 million three-year trial offered confidence for similar state-of-the-art reefs to be located elsewhere off the Western Australian coast.

“Recreational fishing licence fees will soon be at work again supporting new artificial reef projects off Mandurah and Rottnest,” he said.

As part of the South-West trial, the WA government has dedicated $575,000 to monitoring the artificial reefs over five years.

Baston says surveys on the South-West reefs had shown them to be successful in providing habitat for the three target species: Samsonfish, snapper and skippy (silver trevally).

“A wide variety of other marine life, including macroalgae and some corals, now call the reefs home,” he said.

“We look forward to the reefs developing further as the trial continues.”

Regional Development Minister Terry Redman has added that the positive results of the first trial support “the creation of opportunities for local tourism, charter operators and tackle and boating industries which base their businesses around the quality of the fishing experience.”

The WA Department of Fisheries explains on its website that the initial trial saw reefs developed on seabeds off Dunsborough and Bunbury. Each artificial reef is made up of 30 ten-tonne reinforced concrete modules placed in six clusters in the four hectares reef area. 

The department says the development of the trial was heavily influenced by similar projects in South Korea and China, where artificial reefs have seen fish populations increase up to twelve times when compared to natural reefs.

“Building on this success, countries such as Korea have invested millions of dollars in large-scale artificial reef projects to enhance fish production and increase commercial catch volumes.”

Basically, the hope is that these reefs will lead to greater fish populations, more fishing opportunities and increase jobs in related industries as a result. But from a consumer’s point of view, it could also mean more affordable Australian fish options and go some way towards reducing the fish shortage that’s predicted around the world – especially if artificial reefs are constructed in other locations.

But these reefs aren’t without controversy, with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association in the US (NOAA) warning that poorly planned reefs can lead to further erosion and deterioration.

The WA Department of Fisheries says that it has signed a memorandum of understanding with Korea’s Fisheries Resource Agency and the People’s Republic of China “to share information on developing artificial reefs and sustainable fisheries management”.

The state’s​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​ policy for artificial reefs also highlights its “responsible approach to assessing the appropriateness of any habitat enhancement structure”.

Images: Fish in the artificial reef at Dunsborough, source: WA Department of Fisheries (YouTube); the development of the WA artificial reefs, source: WA Department of Fisheries flyer.

WA artificial reef web
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