Recreational fishers have heard the call and people are returning to the banks of the Swan and Canning rivers chasing Western School Prawns.
The Swan River Trust, Challenger Institute of Technology, West Australian Fish Foundation and Murdoch University have joined forces with Recfishwest to reignite this once popular summer pastime with backing from the Recreational Fishing Initiatives Fund.
To date, more than 885,000 juvenile Western School Prawns, including almost 250,000 so far this season, have been released into Perth’s rivers.
Teams from the Trust and Challenger are out on the water now collecting gravid (pregnant) female prawns to spawn at the hatchery, with the aim of releasing one million juvenile prawns over this breeding season.
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Trust River Health Manager Dr Steeg Hoeksema said it was great to see recreational fishers back on the water catching prawns which are now running in the estuary downstream of the Narrows and Canning Bridge.
“This is the ultimate goal of the Prawn Watch and restocking programs,” Dr Hoeksema said.
“By culturing river prawns in the hatchery, we are not only reinvigorating the prawn population in the estuary but also an iconic Perth pastime.
“The project also provides the opportunity to investigate the factors that are limiting the natural recruitment of the Western School Prawn and engage the community to help monitor the population in the estuary.”
Now is the perfect time to get out in the water with the warm summer evenings providing ideal conditions for prawning. This is also the optimum time for prawns to breed and recreational prawners are encouraged to keep an eye out for gravid females carrying fertilised eggs.
“While we are continuing to stock Western School Prawns to the estuary, we strongly encourage recreational fishers to return gravid school prawns to the water so they can successfully spawn and help to naturally bolster the population for the following season,” Dr Hoeksema said
Director of Challenger’s Applied Aquaculture Research Centre Mr Greg Jenkins said depending on their size, each female Western School Prawn could produce between 20,000 and 60,000 eggs and each gravid prawn returned to the water could lead to many more prawns the next year.
“Gravid school prawns can easily be identified by the bright green row of eggs that can be seen through the transparent shell of the female running from the middle of their back to their tail,” Mr Jenkins said.