About the project


This project developed quantitative methods to assess the status of the community structure, biodiversity and key habitats within each of the priority ecosystems within the West Coast Bioregion and, where possible, to discriminate the potential impact of each individual factor within the cumulative impacts of all fishing activities, climate shifts and other factors.

The data on types and numbers of fish and benthic flora and fauna were collected using standard (e.g. baited underwater cameras, hand-hauled seine nets) and novel (precisely positionable underwater probes) approaches, in addition to undertaking further complex analyses of previously collected data (e.g. historical fisheries and oceanographic data, sea-floor mapping data collected by the Marine Futures project).

This project also collated all relevant data sets on environmental variables of possible relevance to fish stocks and ecosystems and examined these with respect to recruitment variability on rock lobster.

The impact of climate change on the level and spatial distribution of puerulus settlement, catchability of lobsters in traps, numbers of mature females moulting from setose to non-setose, growth rates, timing of moults and hence the timing of the peak catch rates, were assessed.

Finally, a modelling exercise was undertaken to examine potential range shift of various fish species under the influence of predicted climate change impacts on the coast waters around Western Australia.


To develop methods and/or generate the information needed to assist with the management of the marine ecosystems of Western Australia consistent with the principles of Ecologically Sustainable Development (ESD). Implementing these ESD principles in a practical manner for fisheries has involved the development of a new management approach which is termed Ecosystem-Based Fisheries Management (EBFM).

Research Articles

4.2.1b The development and validation of an estuarine health index using fish community characteristics

Hallett, C.S., Valesini, F.J., Clarke, K.R. (2012). A method for selecting health index metrics in the absence of independent measures of ecological condition. Ecological Indicators.

Hallett, C.S. (2010). The development and validation of an estuarine health index using fish community characteristics. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

Hallett, C.S., Valesini, F.J., Potter, I.C. (2007). Fish community characteristics as indicators of estuarine health: Discussion paper. Swan River Trust, East Perth.

Valesini, F.J., Hallett, C.S., Cottingham, A., Hesp, S.A., Hoeksema, S.D., Hall, N.G., Linke, T.E., Buckland, A.J. (2011). Development of biotic indices for establishing and monitoring ecosystem health of the Swan-Canning Estuary. Final Report to the Swan River Trust, Department of Water, Department of Fisheries. Murdoch University

4.2.2a Establishment of Indicator regions for long term monitoring and assessment

Langlois, T. J., Van Niel, K. P., Meeuwig, J. J., Pearce, A., Radford, B. & Harvey, E. S. (2011) Consistent abundance distributions of marine fishes in an old, climatically buffered, infertile seascape. Global Ecology and Biogeography

Smale, D. A., Wernberg, T., Peck, L. S. and Barnes, D. K. A. (2011) Turning on the heat: ecological response to simulated warming in the sea. PLoS One 6: e16050

Smale, D. A., Langlois, T., Kendrick, G. A., Meeuwig, J. Harvey, E. S. (2011) From fronds to fish: the use of indicators for ecological monitoring in marine benthic ecosystems, with case studies from temperate Western Australia. Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries.

Smale, D. A., Kendrick, G. A., and Wernberg, T. (2011) Subtidal macroalgal richness, diversity and turnover, at multiple spatial scales, along the southwestern Australian coastline. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science 91: 224-231

Veale, L., Coulson, P., Hoeksema, S., Tweedley, J., Hall, N. and Potter, I. (2010) The characteristics of the fish and crab assemblages of the Leschenault Estuary. Inter-period comparisons and their management implications. South West Development Commission Report, December 2010. Centre for Fish and Fisheries Research, Murdoch University

Wernberg, T., Russell, B. D., Moore, P. J., Ling, S. D., Smale, D. A., Campbell, A., Coleman, M., Steinberg, P. D., Kendrick, G. A., Connell, S. D. (2011) Impacts of climate change in a global hotspot for temperate marine biodiversity and ocean warming. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology.

4.2.2b Metropolitan fish indicators 

Langlois, T., Harvey, E., & Meeuwig, J. (2012). Strong direct and inconsistent indirect effects of fishing found using stereo-video: Testing indicators from fisheries closures. Ecological Indicators, 23, 524 – 534.

4.2.3 Establishment of fishery-dependent indicators of climate change 

Caputi, N., Mellville-Smith, R., de Lestang, S., Feng, M., Pearce, A. (2010). The effect of climate change on the western rock lobster fishery. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences. 67(1): 85-96

Caputi, N., de Lestang, S., Feng, M., Pearce, A. (2009). Seasonal variation in the long-term warming trend in water temperature off the Western Australian coast. Marine and Freshwater Research 60:129- 139.

Lenanton,R.C., N.Caputi, M.Kangas & M.Craine (2009). The ongoing influence of the Leeuwin Current on economically important fish and invertebrates off temperate Western Australia – has it changed? Journal of the Royal Society of Western Australia 92(2): 111-127.

4.2.4 Cost effective ongoing, general biodiversity and habitat monitoring methods 

Hallett, C.S., Valesini, F.J., Potter, I.C. (2007). Fish community characteristics as indicators of estuarine health: Discussion paper. Swan River Trust, East Perth.

Langlois TJ, Harvey ES, Fitzpatrick B, Meeuwig JJ, Shedrawi G, Watson DL (2010) Cost-efficient sampling of fish assemblages: comparison of baited video stations and diver video transects. Aquat Biol 9:155-168.

Smale, D.A., Wernberg, T. & Vance, T. Community development on subtidal temperate reefs: the influences of wave energy and the stochastic recruitment of a dominant kelp. Mar Biol 158, 1757–1766 (2011).

Smale, D. A. (2010) Monitoring marine macroalgae: the influence of spatial scale on the usefulness of biodiversity surrogates. Diversity and Distributions 16: 985-995

Smale, D. A., Kendrick, G. A., and Wernberg, T. (2010) Assemblage turnover and taxonomic sufficiency of subtidal macroalgae at multiple spatial scales. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 384: 76-86.

Smale, D. A., Kendrick, G. A., Waddington, K. I. Van Niel, K. P., Meeuwig, J. J. and Harvey, E. S. (2010) Benthic assemblage composition on subtidal reefs along a latitudinal gradient in Western Australia. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science 86: 83-92.

Watson DL, Harvey ES, Fitzpatrick BM, Langlois TJ and G Shedrawi (2010) Assessing reef fish assemblage structure: how do different stereo-video techniques compare? Marine Biology. 157: 1237-


Program: WAMSI 2006-2011

Completed: June 2011

Location: West Coast Bioregion, Swan, Peel-Harvey and Leschenault estuaries

Project Leader: Euan Harvey



Final Report

Milestone Report

Draft Manuscript

Fact Sheet