Seagrass meadows within Western Australia’s Cockburn Sound will again be the focus of community-driven restoration as fishing conservation charity OzFish Unlimited launches Seeds for Snapper 2021 this November.
Now in its fourth year, the annual marine restoration program, is calling on the community for help in achieving this year’s goals.
The project will see the local fishers and divers endeavour to collect, process, and disperse 1 million seagrass seeds to help restore and regenerate seagrass meadows.
Cockburn Sound is a major nursery and foraging grounds for many recreational fishing favourites, such as baby pink snapper, calamari, whiting and blue swimmer crabs.
The seagrass meadows in the area have been significantly impacted due to environmental change and long-term ecological degradation. Without additional help, they will continue to decline.
To kick start the restoration program, OzFish held a community information evening on Monday night at the Fremantle Sailing Club to update volunteers on this year’s activities that will be taking place over the next month.
“To get 70 people attend so early on in the program shows just how supported the project is for locals,” said Andrew Matthews, OzFish’s WA Program Manager.
“Volunteers are the driving force of this project. Attendees learnt how they can come on board with OzFish and the University of Western Australia presented on the learnings from previous years to improve seagrass collection efficiencies to hit the magic million seeds,” said Andrew.
Professor Gary Kendrick from UWA Oceans Institute gave a brief history on the last 20 years in seagrass restoration, what the community-driven Seeds for Snapper project was aiming to do to create a resilient and productive seagrass ecosystem in Cockburn Sound and Owen Anchorage and enhance pink snapper fishing into the future.
Professor Kenrick said, “What often washes up on the beach to rot in the sun this time of the year is seagrass fruit, which contains the all-important seed.
“By collecting these fruits and processing them for the seed, we can use these otherwise lost seeds to restore seagrasses in shallow areas of Cockburn Sound and Owen Anchorage”.
“The team and volunteers then disperse these rescued seeds by hand from boats into areas with preferred growing conditions which includes healthy sediment type and associated nearness to reef structures,” said Professor Kenrick.
OzFish’s Dive Team co-ordinator Tania Douthwaite explained the safety and fruit collection methods and what volunteers they are looking for.
“We are recruiting a mixture of skilled and beginner dive volunteers, some who have advanced scuba skills to help support the other keen recreational divers,” said Tania.
“We are also in need of a range of other volunteers for other on-shore and boating tasks and we’re especially encouraging local fishers to get involved,” said Senior Program Manager, Andrew Matthews.
The community can get involved in the ambitious project by registering to volunteer on the OzFish website ozfish.org.au.
Volunteers are needed for a wide range of activities from collecting fruit, cleaning seed or just simply providing time at Woodman’s Point boat ramp to offer boat owners scoop nets and buckets to collect the floating fruit often seen by fishers setting and checking their rock lobster pots in the area.
This project is supported by Recfishwest and was made possible by the WA Government’s Recreational Fishing Initiatives Fund, BCF – Boating Camping Fishing and Kwinana Industry Council.