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Habitat restoration enhances Ramsar wetlands for native fish

Habitat restoration enhances Ramsar wetlands for native fish

The Reel Big Fish – Western Port project delivered by Melbourne Water has successfully restored native fish habitat across one of Victoria’s internationally recognised Ramsar wetlands, helping habitat and local fish varieties to flourish.

Focusing on the Western Port region including Hastings and Queensferry, critical vegetation was restored and enhanced across the communities, specifically mangrove forests.

Funded by the Australian Government through its Fisheries Habitat Restoration Program, the three-year joint agency project saw over 10,000 mangrove seed planted.

Reel Big Fish Western Port has established habitat for local fish
Reel Big Fish Western Port has established habitat for local fish

“This restoration has increased the critical habitat for juvenile fish species including Snapper, Flathead, King George Whiting, Gummy Shark and Calamari,” Andrew Morrison, Melbourne Water Senior Asset Planner – Land & Catchments said.

“Juvenile fish will utilise a mangrove forest network of woody material and pneumatophores (breathing roots) for protection against predators, for the provision of shade, and as a sanctuary for insects and invertebrates.

“This approach ensures the ongoing establishment of a healthy coastal ecosystem for fish and provides the greatest opportunity for plant survival.”

An important food source for our local fish, across the past two years over 50 kilograms of mangrove seedlings have been collected and re-sown across several restoration sites. Utilising a method refined by the Bass Coast Landcare Network, the seeds are tied to bamboo stakes and planted among established mangroves for added protection, ensuring they thrive.

In addition to this, the Reel Big Fish – Western Port project is designed to educate local fishers on what they can do to continue the restoration work currently being undertaken. To assist with this, the Mangrove Restoration Fishing Group of Western Port was established in 2021, under the coordination of OzFish, helping to train and connect recreational fishers, increase their knowledge on the needs of fish, create a resilient legacy that benefits the Ramsar Protection Program and inspire program advocacy.

Melbourne Water, as a catchment management authority (CMA), is responsible for delivering land, water and biodiversity programs that enhance and protect the environment and support thriving communities in the Port Phillip and Westernport catchments. The Reel Big Fish -Western Port project falls under this CMA plan.

This project was supported with funding from the Australian Government in partnership with the Bass Coast Landcare Network, OzFish and Mornington Peninsula Shire.

Media Contact: 03 9679 7004 or [email protected]