Project number: 2018-053
Project Status:
Budget expenditure: $376,840.06
Principal Investigator: Euan S. Harvey
Organisation: Curtin University
Project start/end date: 29 Apr 2019 - 19 Mar 2020


The north west of Western Australia has productive commercial and recreational fisheries and extensive offshore oil and gas (O&G) infrastructure. These man-made structures support a range of demersal and pelagic fishes which are targeted by recreational and commercial fishers. As this O&G infrastructure reaches the end of its productive life, decisions on the best practice option for decommissioning must be made. The current policy for decommissioning requires complete removal. Regulators may support alternative strategies, such as leaving infrastructure in place, if risks and impacts are minimised and there are clear environmental, social and economic benefits to do so. It is thought that removal of infrastructure will decrease catch rates and have negative ecological, economic (direct and downstream) and social consequences.

At the same time as the discussion is occurring about removing O&G infrastructure, there have been large investments in constructing and installing purpose built man-made aquatic structures on the seafloor for the express purpose of enhancing the experience of recreational fishers and SCUBA divers.

There is a need to deliver critical information on: 1) the ecological, economic and social value of these man-made structures to recreational and commercial fishers and other stakeholders; 2) the attitudes of stakeholders to man-made structures; and 3) the opportunities and risks of decommissioning strategies to fishers and other groups (e.g. tourism).

Policy regarding the removal of decommissioned structures will benefit from the increased clarity that this project will provide in regards to data requirements for socio-economic models and stakeholder consultation methods. Comparative assessments of decommissioning options rely on the existence of appropriate socio-economic data, a knowledge gap this project aims to fill. An understanding of the impact of man-made aquatic structures on recreational and commercial fisheries is a global priority, and as such this project has strong international importance and relevance.


1. To develop conceptual qualitative, semi-quantitative and quantitative models for describing the socio-economic values and decide what information is needed to give stakeholders an understanding of the value of manmade aquatic structures in the marine environment.
2. To collate a list and description of the manmade aquatic structures in the marine environment in Western Australian and the associated social, economic and biodiversity data.
3. To collect and collate data on four manmade aquatic structures in the marine environment and develop and compare the costs and benefits of qualitative, semi-quantitative and quantitative models.
4. To develop a decision support system or framework for undertaking socio-economic evaluations of manmade aquatic structures which can be used throughout Australia and guide end users on how to develop qualitative, semi-quantitative and quantitative models depending on their information requirements.

Final report

ISBN: 978-0-646-84171-7
Author: Euan Harvey
Final Report


In 2018, the state’s recreational and commercial fishers (represented by the peak bodies Recfishwest and WAFIC) commissioned a program of research as part of a Fisheries Research Development Corporation project aimed at documenting the social and economic values and benefits that stakeholders obtain from MMS in Western Australia. These structures include shipwrecks, artificial reefs, break walls, structures associated with harbours, jetties, marine navigation markers, and O&G infrastructure such as platforms, wells, and pipelines.
During 2019 and 2020 the researchers undertook seven online surveys which focussed on understanding the social and economic benefits and values that recreational and commercial fishers, divers and other users gained from using MMS in Western Australia. This was complemented by eleven focus groups which included representatives from the commercial and recreational fishers, but also the Oil and Gas (O&G) sector, regulators (state and federal), conservation, non-government organisations (NGOs), scientific sectors, and the general community. The researchers used data to develop five case studies representing a range of different structures and end users. These case studies focussed on inshore Thevenard Island subsea O&G infrastructure (incorporating recreational fishing), Woodside’s Echo Yodel offshore subsea O&G infrastructure (incorporating commercial fishing), the Exmouth Integrated Artificial Reef (recreational fishing), the Exmouth Navy Pier (diving tourism), and the iconic Busselton Jetty in Southwestern Australia, which is used for tourism, by recreational fishers, divers, swimmers and many other stakeholders. A guidebook was produced outlining the different methods of identifying social and economic values, along with the types of data required, and the approaches to collecting this data. The guidebook also outlines the advantages, disadvantages and resource needs for each method. A database of the MMS in Western Australia was also compiled and made accessible online.

Related research


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