Potential location scouted for artificial reef development

A $600,000 artificial reef development, which will provide a safer and more prosperous environment for fishing, is closer to fruition after a potential location was scouted.

Recfishwest research officer James Florisson said constraints mapping of Esperance had indicated the reef would likely be located in an area between Limpet Rock, Low Rock and Bail Rock, close to Wylie Bay and Bandy Creek.

The reef, announced in December last year, received $300,000 in funding from the Recreational Fishing Initiatives Fund.

In March the funding was doubled by the Goldfields Esperance Development Commission, allowing the artificial reef to double in size.

Mr Florisson said the location received the ‘tick of approval’ during a consultation with South East Coast Recreational Fishing Council and Esperance Deep Sea Angling Club.

"At the moment, the area is very broad because we haven’t put the cameras down yet, but it is a two square kilometer area inside that triangle that we’re looking at,” he said.

“Cameras will be used to see what is on the sea floor to ensure the reef is deployed in the most effective location.”

Despite the ‘great’ fishing in Esperance, Mr Florisson said the purpose of the reef was to rectify the ‘substantial loss’ of fishing access due to geographical and environmental factors.

“What we’re trying to do with this reef is provide a safe fishing location, which is looking like it will be behind Limpet Rock, it’s a bit protected from swell and close to boat ramps so, if the weather picks up, you can get back in safely.” 

Fishing Council chairman Graham Cooper said the reef, expected to be completed within two years, would provide a safer place for fishing.

“Where do recreational fishers fish now? Not on the jetty, it’ll be a long time before that’ll happen,” he said.

“I believe it will get more people outdoors, enjoying what is available here in Esperance.”

A workshop held at the Angling Club on September 27 delivered a presentation on the camera, habitat mapping, and the reef’s location.

A number of potential locations were isolated based on ocean depth and proximity to a boat ramp, the elimination process leaving a triangle between Limpet Rock, Low and Bail Rocks.

Local fishers will deploy the specialised underwater BRUV camera to collect footage to map the habitat, with three new camera frames arriving in Esperance next week.

Recfishwest research officer James Florisson said the reef project relied on the knowledge of local recreational fishers in order to map the habitat, something previously only done by scientists.

“As far as we know, it’s the first time this has been done anywhere in the world in terms of using recreational fishers to map the habitat for an artificial reef deployment with specialised underwater cameras instead of scientists.

These fisherman are local guys and girls and they spend a lot of time on the water, more than anyone else, so who better else to use?” he said.

Mr Florisson said the reef configuration and the type of reef would be different to the current natural habitat, creating a different and productive ecosystem for a variety of different species of fish.

Despite having scouted for locations since the reef’s funding was announced, Mr Florisson said he wanted to ensure the reef was deployed in the most effective location.

“[The reef] will probably be going in the water in 2018 being built and deployed by artificial reef specialists Subcon, but it’s like installing or building a sports stadium, you have to get everything right to ensure it’s the best quality structure benefiting all users,” he said.