The Channel 7 story showed the innovative Habitat Reef modules deployed in the Pioneer River estuary, Mackay. The complex hard vertical relief modules were designed with improved settlement surfaces to provide suitable areas for recruiting sessile marine organisms such as oysters and corals.
The Habitat Reef modules have a cave at the bottom for large-bodied fish species and a separate chamber at the top only accessible by juvenile and small-bodied fish species. In total, 45 modules were deployed adjacent to 3 easily accessible fishing platforms (15 at each) to improve the recreational fishing experience and provide key nursery habitats.
Pre-deployment monitoring using unbaited remote underwater video stations recorded 3 fish species at the sites. Post-monitoring recorded 15 species. Baited video stations were also used post-deployment to investigate differences between baited and unbaited videos, with an additional 7 species recorded using these, resulting in 22 fish species across the sites. Iconic recreational species recorded utilising the Reefs included barramundi, golden snapper, mangrove jack, barred grunter, estuary cod, giant trevally, and yellow-fin bream. Most encouraging was the high number of juvenile fish species using the Reef modules as nursery habitats. Herbivorous ecosystem engineer species were also recorded including rabbitfish, red scats, and wrasse sp.
Many thanks to Mackay Regional Council for undertaking the project, Johan Betrom (SeaO2) for deploying the Reefs, and Paul Prenzler (RHDHV) for his coastal engineering expertise.