We have all seen mangroves on our afternoon walk or while out fishing, but do we really know the role they play for the local fish populations?
In a nutshell, Mangroves provide food and habitat to various species, from birdlife to many of our favourite recreational targeted fish.
In estuaries all along the Australian coastline, we have mullet that eat decaying mangrove leaves, flathead that prey upon crabs and crustaceans that live around the submerged trees, and bread and butter species such as the King George whiting and Flounder that shelter within mangroves as juveniles.
Given Australia has the third largest area of mangroves globally, it is no wonder we have such world–class fishing.
With this in mind, it is easy to understand that healthy and abundant mangroves mean more fish to catch. But their work does not end there…
These mangrove forests also play a critical role in the health of coastal ecosystems, providing not just habitat for fish, but helping improve water quality by absorbing nutrients and reducing erosion, which can otherwise lead to murky waters and collapsed banks.
When it comes to combating climate change, mangroves are also one of the best carbon sequestering ecosystems globally.
Mangroves are accountable for 14% of the carbon locked away in our marine environment, containing over 900 tonnes of carbon per hectare! These mangrove superpowers also mitigate other climate change associated stressors like storm surges.
Unfortunately, however, 17% of mangroves have been lost in Australia in the last century. Along with this, seagrass and other key habitats in areas such as Western Port has declined by 85% from the 1970’s to the 1980’s.
Research has found that amongst other things, erosion has a big part to play in this loss, as sediments in the water reduce the amount of light reaching seagrass.
To help turn the tide on mangrove and other habitat loss in Westernport, OzFish has joined forces with the Port Phillip and Western Port Catchment Management Authority (PPWCMA) and Bass Coast Landcare.
Through funding from the Australian Governments’ Fish Habitat Restoration Program and with support from a range of local stakeholders and organisations, the Reel Big Fish Project was born.
Reel Big Fish plans to make a real big difference in the health of Western Port by helping restore 100 hectares of mangroves in the next two years. Fathom that.
The PPWCMA are overseeing the project, with Bass Coast Landcare Network facilitating mangrove seed collection and planting, and help from Parks Victoria, Mornington Peninsula Shire, and of course OzFish’s army of recreational fishers.
If you want to be a part of this project, keep an eye out for upcoming planting days on the OzFish events page.
Together, we can be a part of helping reduce erosion, bringing back seagrass, increasing mangroves, and improving fish habitat in Western Port and beyond.
If you are looking to start a project like this in your local area, join your local chapter or get in contact on 1800 431 308 to start your own.
This project is supported by Port Phillip and Westernport Catchment Management Authority through funding from the Australian Government’s Fisheries Habitat Restoration Program.