Why Black Pygmy Mussels are so important

Black pygmy mussels are a crucial food source for bream and when their diet is rich in this specific shellfish it leads to bigger, stronger, healthier populations of this famous Australian fish that recreational anglers love to catch.    

By restoring these valuable mussel beds, a more complex and robust aquatic habitat will be created which will result in greater black bream stocks.  

Mussels are not only a vital food source, but they act as a kidney to the river where they help to clean the water by filtering out sediments, pollutants, and nutrients.  

Restoring a stressed habitat

Black bream populations have taken a serious knock in the Swan-Canning Estuary thanks to increased levels of sediment and nutrients entering the waterway due to domestic and agricultural run-off.  

These additional nutrients have sparked higher than normal levels of algae growth that crowds out the hard surfaces in the river where black pygmy mussels would normally grow.

That’s why the OzFish Perth Chapter has made a commitment to assist struggling black bream populations throughout the Swan-Canning Estuary through habitat restoration by improving the numbers of black pygmy mussels which are an important food source for this iconic fish.  

Mussel mats for hungry bream

This project uses natural materials to create artificial habitats where young black pygmy mussels can thrive thanks to a level of protection from predation.  

Volunteers will construct and install habitat materials at 20 initial sites in the Swan and Canning Estuary systems. At a recent information session, volunteers learned about the materials and location of the project sites, they also shared valuable feedback about the current state of different sites.    

Next, volunteers will construct artificial habitats using coir rope and matting, these will be placed in the water at extreme low tide, in time for the annual black pygmy mussel spawning.  

There are different stages in the project that volunteers will be able to help construct the habitat units, install and conduct ongoing monitoring to determine increased mussel and fish populations because of these efforts.  


2 July 2023 | Pygmy mussels looking strong again in WA to fill up black bream

In recent years, members of OzFish Perth Chapter has been collaborating with The Nature Conservancy (TNC) to restore critical pygmy mussel habitat in the Swan-Canning River system in Western Australia, marking a significant step towards revitalising shellfish populations in the region. The decline of pygmy mussels in the river over the past few decades has placed added pressure on black bream, a species that relies on mussels as a vital food source during the winter season. The shortage of this food source has been linked to stunted growth in black bream, impacting the overall angling experience in the Swan-Canning. To address this issue and boost mussel habitat, TNC, with the assistance of OzFish volunteers, has installed 2km of biodegradable coir matting throughout the river.

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4 November 2021 | OzFish Calling on anglers to mussel up for Black Bream

Fishing conservation charity OzFish, The Nature Conservancy and Murdoch University researchers will band together on a long-term project to restore native Black Pygmy Mussels (Xenostrobus securis) and they are calling on local anglers that target the iconic black bream to get involved now. An information session will be held on Thursday evening 11 November at the Riverton Pavilion and will kick off the project for the Swan and Canning Rivers. The night will outline the potential roles recreational anglers and community members can play in this restoration initiative. Steve Pursell Project Manager in WA said that rec anglers have valuable local knowledge of the estuary and involving them is key to the project’s success.

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This project is being supported and delivered in partnership with The Nature Conservancy and Murdoch University and is funded by the Fisheries Habitat Restoration Program, Perth NRM, the Australian Government and BCF.