Port Phillip Bay Reef Transcript
As part of the government's Department of Primary Industries, our job here at The Victorian Fisheries Authority is to manage the State's freshwater and marine fisheries in a way that's sustainable and gives fair access for recreational and commercial fishers.
As Victoria's population is growing so to is the number of recreational fishers. The Victorian Fisheries Authority is looking to respond that increasing demand by creating new opportunities for recreational fishing across the state.
One of the possibilities is to create artificial reefs. They've been around for centuries but the designs have been pretty rough and ready and haven't necessarily always fished very well. So we've turned to our scientists at our research facility at Queenscliff to come up with a modern design, test and prove that these are environmentally friendly and also that they produce good fishing for our recreational fishers.
So our starting point was to search around the world for reef solutions that would be best suited to the environment and fish communities resident in Port Phillip Bay. We identified that reef balls would be highly suited both to the environment in Port Phillip Bay but also the species of major interest which are snapper.
Reef balls are actually concrete dome structures. They're hollow in the interior; they have an opening in the top and various openings around the outside to allow fish to move in and out.
We actually used three different sizes in our reefs and they're arranged in a patchwork configuration, which we think is highly suited to a species like snapper, which likes to live around the edges of reefs rather than in them.
As our directive was not only to design and install these reefs, but also to monitor them and evaluate their performance, where we put the reefs was absolutely critical.
This area in the north-east of Port Phillip Bay, approximately 2 km off the Frankston to Mordialloc shoreline, was ideal. It was relatively unassigned and already a popular fishing spot for snapper.
The three reefs were placed in approximately 11 metres of water and were given the names Rec, Tedesco and Yakka after a public naming competition.
Science underpins all the decisions we make about identifying opportunities to boost recreational fishing across Victoria. The combination of the fieldwork undertaken by our scientists, coupled with the huge efforts by angler diarists across the state build that knowledge base.
The angler diary program provides the real partnership between us here at Queenscliff as the scientists and recreational fishers. As part of this program we've introduced monitoring of the new artificial reefs.
It was a real no-brainer to get these guys involved, they've got so much local knowledge, they know how to catch fish and really, who's going to tell us if recreational fishing is improving because of artificial reefs better than the anglers.
I'm Matt and this is Jason, and today we're going to the Rec Reef off Mordialloc. Jason and I got involved in this program because we are locals and we're very interested to know more about our local fishery.
Juvenile snapper I'd say by the way it's bouncing. So as gently as possible we take the hook out, we go over here and measure the fish, then release them. Alright, now we record those statistics. On my size 6-0 hook I was using a pipi for bait.
Three years ago when I was fishing here, before the reefs were in, we'd be lucky to catch a flathead or two here and now it's just unbelievable. There's so many different species of fish, different sizes of fish.
And we're onto a bigger fish with a bigger bait and a bigger hook. This is why the reefs are so great, we've come out here, haven't put any burley out and what we've got here is a beautiful snapper. A helping hand with the net and catching fish like that. That's fantastic, have a look at that. That's what these reefs are producing, a lot more so in November and December, but even this time of year they are fantastic. They're there, there's plenty of them.
So while the angler diary program's going to give us some vital information about fishing, it's important that we also get under the water and have a look for what's happening on the reefs.
We have a team of divers that goes out and they're doing scuba diving surveys and lowering underwater video with baits to try and attract fish to see what's actually on the bottom, not just what's been caught by the fishermen.
So while the divers have been out recording information on fish assemblages, they've also been recording a lot of information on other plants and animals that might be inhabiting the reefs. This is really important if we're going to get a full picture on what is happening with introducing artificial reefs to Port Phillip Bay.
So with three years of extensive monitoring behind us we're able to see what actually changed by putting in artificial reefs.
Before the reefs went in we were seeing mostly demersal fish species like your flatheads and your stingrays. But within six months we saw rapid colonisation by algae and bryozoans, so that then brought small fish communities. Little fish that aren't necessarily recreationally important but they set themselves up within six months. That then attracted the predators and predators are what recreational anglers want.
The predators were predominantly snapper, but there were some snook and pike, things that are of real interest.
Between 6 months to 12 months we saw those juvenile snapper really start to become the main predatory species, but from 12 months to 24 months to the end of the monitoring program, the catches of larger mature snapper really increased.
We now have the results of the three year study conducted by our scientists here at Queenscliff into the performance of our trial artificial reefs in Port Phillip Bay.
As always good science is the backbone of good policy making. We're now confident, based on the results of the scientific assessment of the artificial reefs program in Port Phillip Bay, that they are environmentally friendly; they do produce great fishing opportunities for recreational fishers.
Based on that work we can now go ahead quite confidently and design a program of building artificial reefs across Victoria for the benefit of all fishers.
Well I've been part of the angler diary program for over 10 years and one of the aspects of this work has been monitoring the recreational reefs.
I got there before dawn all on my own. It was pretty choppy, put the anchor over, had a look at the sounder, sounder lit up like a Christmas tree. The next minute I had a 5 kg fish on one rod, put that in the boat pretty proud of myself.
Got another one on; fighting that one and the third rod took off. Loosened up the drag, put my foot on that. Realised it was something a bit different. Brought it into the boat and saw this great head loom up out of the gloom because it was still before dawn and it turned out to be the fish of a lifetime! Well it was 12.3 kilo, which I understand is between 26 and 27 pound, which was the biggest fish I've ever caught in over 60 years of snapper fishing.