The state's most fished artificial reef is set to expand thanks to federal funding. The reef off the coast of Bunbury is nearing the final stage of delivery with soft corals prepared by the Bunbury Dolphin Discovery Centre ready to be attached.
The modules for the artificial reef were placed around 4km off Bunbury in Geographe Bay in April this year to augment an existing reef site.
Recfishwest research officer Steph Watts said the project would allow them to understand how additional complex habitat affected the ecological capacity of the reef, and present an opportunity to make reefs more effective.
"The additional 90 low-profile reef modules which have been added to the reef, will create more complex habitat and is expected to increase the number and types of fish found on the reef while allowing a greater number of boats to fish the reef," she said.
The artificial reef is the first of its kind in WA, with the expansion set to increase fishing opportunities by 50 per cent. Forrest MP Nola Marino secured $300,000 in funding to establish the project.
"A South-West business built the reef modules and it is terrific to see local procurement used for this project," she said.
"There have been 90 additional reef modules placed at an existing reef site which was established in 2013."
The original reefs were designed to attract pelagic species while the additional reef will attract demersal species, creating a mixed ecosystem.
Bunbury Dolphin Discovery Centre Aquarist Jan Tierney said the centre was waiting for a weather break to add the corals.
"The Dolphin Discovery Centre chief executive officer, as a member of the South West Artificial Reef Committee, ensured the artificial reef structures used were of a construction type suitable for attaching the "Ceramic Frag Plugs" on which the corals are grown," she said.
"We are working with Busselton Jetty Marine Scientist Sophie Teede, to ensure we are concentrating on species which are ecologically important and which are believed to have the best propagation potential.
"The time-line for reef seeding to commence will be determined by development of the propagated corals and by hoping that breaks in the winter weather give us the opportunity for frequent dive trips."