Seeds for Snapper seagrass restoration project

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WESTERN Australia’s second largest snapper spawning ground is slowly getting restored with the help of an innovative habitat restoration project, Seeds for Snapper.

Behind the project is OzFish, who developed a trial last year to see if the community can support seagrass habitat restoration by collecting floating seagrass fruit for processing on-shore. This saw 200,000 posidonia australis seeds processed and re-established in Cockburn Sound.

The trial demonstrated impressive results to resorting seagrass beds and OzFish senior project manager Andrew Matthews, said he was excited that the pilot has been so successful.

“We have seen up to a tenfold increase in seedling emergence compared to natural establishment, which means we can be really confident that this method works and that the communities help can make a difference to our marine environment,” Mathews said.

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In recent years, 80 per cent of seagrass has been lost in WA due to greater fishing pressure, environmental change and habitat degradation and this has put this important area at risk. The seagrass meadows of Cockburn Sound are well recognised as critical foraging and nursery grounds for snapper, calamari, whiting and blue swimmer crabs.

“The project is a collaborative effort, without the help of the community, including boating, fishing and diving volunteering time and resources, it simply would not get it off the ground,” he said.

The Cockburn Power Boat Club are an important partner in facilitating the Seeds for Snapper restoration work providing a location for tanks, site security, power and access to sea water within the club marina.

General manager John Tissott said, “Our members recognise the importance of healthy plentiful oceans, so this project has given them an opportunity to give back to habitat and ensure the sustainability of the marine environment we enjoy.”

Researchers, with the help of fishers, will continue to monitor the reseeded meadows and measure their growth. Marine ecologist Dr John Statton from UWA has been working on seagrass restoration for several years and said, “By using community members to scale up seagrass restoration, we will not only see a return of ecological services in large numbers, but also economic and social benefits from the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods and jobs while preserving the health of ocean ecosystem.”

The ‘Seeds for Snapper’ project would not be possible without the support of major partners BCF – Boating Camping Fishing, the University of Western Australia, Recfishwest, Cockburn Power Boat Association and City of Cockburn.

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