West Australian recreational fishers and divers have worked to restore the lost seagrass meadows of Cockburn Sound for the second consecutive year by collecting and spreading seeds to speed the plant’s restoration and improve the habitat for Pink Snapper.
Cockburn Sound is the state’s most ecologically important southwest region Snapper spawning ground but has lost 80% of its seagrass meadows. Seagrass provides critical foraging and nursery grounds for many fish species as well as crabs, prawns and Southern Calamari.
OzFish Unlimited has partnered with numerous organisations to help restore these meadows including University of Western Australia (UWA), Recfishwest and City of Cockburn with support from BCF – Boating, Camping, Fishing to deliver a community-driven restoration program for the past two years.
While out boating, volunteers have been using hand nets to collect the fruit pods in the Cockburn Sound. Flower pods or fruit containing the seed float to the water’s surface before being driven by wind and collected by currents forming floating wracks.
This year’s weather conditions didn’t help the collection of the planned 1 million seeds but volunteers still made a great effort collecting as many as possible.
Marine Ecologist, Dr John Statton from UWA has been working on seagrass restoration for several years and said that predicting flowering from previous seasons is getting harder but with more regular monitoring it’s expected that forecasting fruit ripening and seed collection will improve.
During the month-long Seagrass restoration program, three public events were held. The first community meeting in early November at the Cockburn Powerboat Club was attended by over 150 people proving the community really care about restoring the aquatic habitat.
This was followed up with a Family Seeding day on the 24th November which despite the windy weather conditions, families with young enthusiastic children helped disperse thousands of seed into the restoration site south of Henderson Marina.
A Seagrass Garden Party was held on the 12th December at the Coogee Dive Trial where over 200 people enjoyed a day in the sun hearing about seagrass and the projects aim of establishing a seagrass garden close to the Omeo Wreck. Some dive volunteers took out the last of the seagrass seed collected while others snorkelled and swam exploring the wonderful marine life growing on the wreck and artificial reef structures including a giant starfish.
If you would like to get involved please contact OzFish Unlimited Perth Chapter on their Facebook Page or call Senior Project Manager Andrew Matthews.