Reel Big Fish – Western Port is a three-year project that started in 2020 with plans to be finalised in 2023. The project aims to improve and increase the extent of suitable habitat for recreational fish species in Western Port while also expanding knowledge and building capacity with the recreational fishing community.
The project is working with community groups, volunteers and fishing groups to restore mangrove forests at priority locations along Western Ports intertidal zone. This work will be supported by a range of education and training events to connect recreational fishers with fisheries habitat specialists – increasing fisher knowledge and building their capacity to actively contribute to building a resilient fishery in Western Port and is delivered as part of the Ramsar Protection Program.
This project was original led by the Port Phillip & Westernport CMA. The Port Phillip & Westernport CMA was integrated into Melbourne Water in January 2022 and Melbourne Water is now the delivery agency.
Why this project is important
Over 1 million people a year recreationally fish in Victoria. A survey of recreational fishing licence holders identified Western Port as a highly preferred fishing location, second only to Port Phillip Bay. Western Port is a destination fishery, visited by fishers from across Victoria, targeting species such as Snapper, King George Whiting, Gummy Shark and Calamari.
Mangroves provide a home for a huge variety of juvenile fish, and are a major store and supply of biomass and nutrients for Western Port, forming the base of the food chain and protection against the effects of coastal erosion. A fully functioning and resilient Western Port fishery requires a healthy coastal ecosystem, including seagrass, mangroves and saltmarsh communities.
Harvesting, vegetation removal and fragmentation have posed serious threats to Western Port’s mangroves communities, and landward retreats are needed to prevent the loss of mangroves as the sea level rises. Restoration efforts will be focused on establishing mangrove forest communities which provide the greatest opportunity for plant survival and project success. The cumulative impact of this project will result in progress towards, and achievement of the Australian Government’s Fisheries Habitat Restoration Program outcomes.
Year three 2022-2023
Over 200 recreational fishers will have been engaged in events, workshops, and participated in on-ground restoration works, leading to the creation of two new recreational fishing groups.
Mangrove extent is anticipated to increase by 3% (50ha) as a result of restoration activities
Year two 2021-2022
Initial surveys will be completed to establish a baseline of fish biomass at each priority site
Recreational fisher groups will begin to be engaged in the project. In partnership with OzFish, BCLN will deliver a range of events that connect recreational fishers with fisheries habitat specialists.
Activities will be undertaken to increase the awareness and adoption of land management practices that will improve and protect the condition of soil, biodiversity and vegetation in and around Western Port
Year one 2020-2021
Bass Coast Landcare Network (BCLN) engaged to coordinate the restoration of 100 hectares of mangrove forests at the priority locations, as well and seed collection, propagation and planting, and monitoring. This will be carried out in collaboration with their extensive local volunteers network over the course of the project.
Parks Victoria was engaged to coordinate the removal of Pacific Oysters at Churchill Island Marine National Park and French Island Marine National Park. Parks Victoria will coordinate the removal of oyster infestations in partnership with an established volunteer base.
OzFish established a new recreational fisher chapter across Western Port.
Bass Coast Landcare Network (BCLN)
Mornington Peninsula Shire
University of Melbourne
Reel Big Fish – Western Port project is supported by Port Phillip and Westernport Catchment Management Authority, through funding from the Australian Government’s Fisheries Habitat Restoration Program.
The project is being delivered throughout Western Port with priority locations at Churchill Island Marine National Park, French Island Marine National Park, Lang Lang Foreshore, Grantville Foreshore and Hastings Foreshore.