Challenger works with community to bring back river prawns

Friday, 07 February 2014
The Perth community now has an opportunity to join an exciting project focused on the Western School Prawns in the Swan and Canning rivers following the launch of Prawn Watch.

The citizen science program is an integral part of the Western School Prawn program that aims to restock the rivers and reignite the once popular
pastime of prawning on the Swan and Canning rivers.

Swan River Trust principal scientist Dr Kerry Trayler said Prawn Watch would complement Challenger Institute of Technology’s research program – which includes culturing the Western School Prawn for release and understanding factors limiting recruitment – by getting the community actively involved.

“Through Prawn Watch, we are encouraging people to get back into the water and share information on river prawns to help scientists understand what’s happening to the prawns,” Dr Trayler said.

“There are still prawns in the river but they are less common than in the past and initially Prawn Watchers will be making a far greater contribution to science by sharing vital data while the restocking program tackles the population’s decline.”

Challenger Institute director Greg Jenkins said his team at Challenger’s Australian Centre for Applied Aquaculture Research (ACAAR) had developed ground-breaking systems to culture the river prawn and large-scale releases were now a fortnightly reality.

“This project is not about re-establishing a commercial fishery, it’s about helping the community engage with the river and science,” Mr Jenkins said.

“We now have the systems in place to culture and release up to a million juvenile prawns during the breeding season from December to April.”

Dr Trayler said the Trust would provide a free training session and some great incentives to all Prawn Watch volunteers.

“Our volunteers will be taught to collect and log data on the abundance and distribution of prawns on a specially developed website and they will also learn the importance of returning all by-catch, including blowies, protecting the foreshore and sustainable fishing,” Dr Trayler said.

“It’s important we teach the next generation key tools to protect the fishery.

“The community can then connect with the river in a sustainable way and preserve activities, such as prawning, that go to the heart of Perth’s connection to the Swan and Canning rivers.”

Recfishwest chief executive Dr Andrew Rowland said the success of the program to date and Prawn Watch was a perfect way for the community to get back into enjoying fishing for river prawns particularly over the summer period.

“The Swan and Canning rivers are popular recreational fishing sites and perfect for families,” Dr Rowland said.

“The Recreational Fishing Initiatives Fund relies on contributions from recreational fishing licence money and we are excited to see this money going back into recreational fishing to produce tangible benefits for the community.”

This project was made possible by the Swan River Trust, Challenger Institute of Technology and the Recreational Fishing Initiatives Fund and is supported by Recfishwest and the WA Department of Fisheries.

There is also a complementary research program at Murdoch University, funded through the Fisheries Research Development Corporation, associated with the restocking project and data from Prawn Watch will contribute to understanding the distribution and abundance of the Western School Prawn.

To get involved in Prawn Watch, visit: http://www.riverguardians.com/projects/prawn-watch
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