Concern over pink snapper stocks should Henderson port get go ahead

Recreational pink snapper fishers have their concerns about how any second port could affect the rebounding fishery in Cockburn Sound.
Recreational pink snapper fishers have their concerns about how any second port could affect the rebounding fishery in Cockburn Sound.

ANY effects of a new port on rebounding pink snapper stocks has some recreational fishers worried, should Fremantle Port be complemented by a new outer harbour near Henderson, Cockburn Sound.

“Do you realise that’s where the snapper breed between the Australian Marine Complex AMC in Henderson and the bulk handling facility south, and you’re going to destroy that?” snapper fisher John Donnelly said at public meeting about any new port in Kwinana recently.

Pink snapper are slow-growing and their populations are thought to be vulnerable to boom and bust breeding years.

As a result, the Sound has an annual closed season between October and February and the Department of Fisheries studies the population using donated skeletons, but a spokesman said it was not possible to comment on the port because its location, size, operations and timing had not been determined.

The State Government’s Westport Taskforce is doing the investigation into the freight and logistics needs of Perth and the South West, including any new harbour and its environmental impact, before a report at the end of next year.

Taskforce community reference group member and recreational fishing lobby Recfishwest may have to comment on different snapper breeding sites each year and the impact of any mooted new 22.5m-deep shipping channel for the port’s two potential locations, both of which are about 2km from some snapper aggregations.

“The breeding varies in different parts of the sound depending on the conditions, but our concern will be on how any development will impact the near-shore fishing experiences of fishers, including those on rock walls and in kayaks and dinghies,” Recfishwest operations manager Leyland Campbell said.

At the public meeting, 360 Environmental director Michelle Rhodes said seagrasses, vital for nursing fish, had increased in eight locations in the sound and decreased at three spots, including nearby Woodman Point, after an overall 77 per cent decrease in the habitat until 1999.

Answering fishers’ concerns, Taskforce chair Nicole Lockwood said any channel’s depth would be part of investigation into port locations and operational needs, the Taskforce was aware of the Sound’s environmental sensitivity, and when exploring the best future port for WA would minimising any environmental impact.

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