Esperance's Cooper Reef takes out state award

South East Coast Recreational Fishing Council president and project chairperson Graham Cooper with the Clubs WA Special Project award. Photo: Jesinta Burton.
South East Coast Recreational Fishing Council president and project chairperson Graham Cooper with the Clubs WA Special Project award. Photo: Jesinta Burton.

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The Esperance Deep Sea Angling Club has been recognised at the 2019 Clubs WA Awards for Excellence, receiving the Special Project award for having brought the Artificial Reef Project to life.

South East Coast Recreational Fishing Council president and project chairperson Graham Cooper, who instigated the project almost five years ago, said he was honoured to receive the award during the ceremony in Perth on Saturday, June 29.

"I'm proud to be able to say that I was the instigator, supporter and communications manager right the way through the process," Mr Cooper said.

"Seeing it be deployed and named 'Cooper Reef' was one thing, but receiving this award has absolutely made my year.

"It's finished the whole project perfectly. I feel very, very honoured.

"Looking at all of the categories and awards, it was very nerve-wracking.

"It was a great night and the judge had some wonderful comments for us, too."

The project was spearheaded by the South Coast Recreational Fishing Council in conjunction with the Esperance Deep Sea Angling Club, and with support from Recfishwest.

The development came to fruition in December 2016, receiving $300,000 in funding from the Recreational Fishing Initiatives Fund before the Goldfields Esperance Development Commission offered to match the funding four months later.

In July 2018, local volunteers constructed 128 concrete modules in just three weeks to create a fish habitat more than 11,400 square metres in size.

Photo: Jesinta Burton.

Photo: Jesinta Burton.

The federal government gave development the final tick of approval in September last year, with the modules deployed in January, 2019.

Now, five months on, Mr Cooper said the reef was thriving, with its rapid growth having attracted 22 species of fish identified at the site - something he said would not have been possible without the project's dedicated volunteers.

"The amount of work that was put in by the many people in Esperance that supported us was unbelievable and I cannot thank them enough," he said.

"This award is the end product. We took a number of months preparing the environmental work, doing the underwater mapping and things like that.

"We put a lot of time into this, virtually thousands of hours.

"Being recognised on this scale, I think we've been able to show a lot of clubs what can be done.

"It's about having volunteers on board and looking after them."

Mr Cooper extended thanks to the project's major volunteers, including Nigel Worth, Mike Spencer, Ben Strautins, Phil Doney, Brett Thorpe, Ron Chambers, John King, Graham Gath, and Murray Johnson.

The project was supported by the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development and Recfishwest.