Project Detail
About Fish Friendly Marine Infrastructure

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Marine infrastructure such as pontoons, jetties, marinas, boat moorings and sea walls have been installed across the NSW coastline to provide access to and storage for marine craft, to control erosion and to protect coastal assets.


Unfortunately many of these existing, and often necessary, structures have placed sensitive coastal and estuarine ecosystems under threat and have reduced shoreline complexity, increased shading effects and resulted in widespread loss of key fish habitat such as seagrass meadows, mangrove forests and saltmarsh. This impact has had a long-term negative influence on marine plants and animals which inhabit the shore including the health and productivity of local fisheries.



Concrete lined creek (loss of riparian zone), vertical faced seawall (loss of complexity), boat access platform (shading impacts)


The good news is that new concepts in marine infrastructure design, and alternatives to traditional construction and management techniques, are providing opportunities to enhance habitat for marine life, in and around these structures.



Naturalised section of concrete channel, seawall with saltmarsh bench, light penetrating platform deck


To find out how your marine infrastructure can become fish friendly and what you need to consider in the process follow the links below:



Fish Friendly Marine Infrastructure is a NSW Department of Primary Industries (Fisheries) program. This project has been assisted by the New South Wales Government through its Environmental Trust and with the partners listed below. The aim of the program is to encourage infrastructure owners to modify, upgrade or retrofit existing marine infrastructure and to incorporate new fish friendly designs when installing new infrastructure. These new concepts lessen the disturbance and impact on marine life, incorporate design features that provide enhanced habitat in which marine life can live and help support more fish.


This program compliments the report Guiding Principles for Marine Foreshore Developments by the University of NSW (UNSW).


This document provides a series of guiding principles for ecologically sustainable design of marine foreshore development. The report is based on an extensive review of the marine eco-engineering literature and recent international foreshore developments and can be used to prevent or remediate environmental impacts, maintain sustainability and increase public use of the foreshore.


Like this project information, the report is considered to be a “living document” that can be supplemented with new innovations and techniques as they are developed.



The guiding principles to take into account are:

  • conserving and improving natural ecosystems while protecting human health and well-being;
  • minimising and/or preventing depletion of natural resources;
  • improving public access and mobility; and
  • engaging the community on environmental education programs. 


What is “fish friendly”?

The term “fish” covers not only fin fish, but other marine creatures and plants such as invertebrates (e.g. shellfish, sea squirts, starfish, crustaceans, sponges and corals), saltmarsh, mangroves, seagrasses and marine algae.


This group of plants and animals grow in areas affected by waterfront and marine development – estuaries, rocky shores, beaches and near shore coastal environments.


Structures that are “fish friendly” help these plants and animals to survive in modified waterfront and near shore environments. You could also call them “environmentally friendly” or “biodiversity friendly” as they are helping to restore some of the lost ecosystem function and helping to preserve the diversity of organisms able to live in those modified environments.



Small fish around submerged mangrove              Snails on intertidal rocks



NSW Department of Primary Industries (Fisheries)


Scott Nichols Ph:(02) 6626 1396 E:

Funding body:

NSW Environmental Trust

Additional information:

Project partners and funding

Fish Friendly Marine Infrastructure is a NSW Department of Primary Industries (Fisheries) program.

This Project has been assisted by the New South Wales Government through its Environmental Trust




NSW Department of Primary Industries (Fisheries) wish to thank the following organisations who have been a part of the Fish Friendly Marine Infrastructure Project - click on their logo to visit their website in a new window:



Useful resources

Qld Department of Agriculture and Fisheries website provides a brief overview of what design features can be included in a fish friendly structure, along with what benefits will be gained from including fish friendly features in your design: what are fish friendly structures.


Dafforn, K.A., Mayer-Pinto, M., Bugnot, A. B., Coleman, R.A., Morris, R. L. and Johnston, E.L. (2016) Guiding principles for marine foreshore developments. Report prepared for UrbanGrowth NSW. University of New South Wales, Sydney. pp 53. 


Mitsch, W. (2012). What is ecological engineering?


Healthy waterways education program

This program developed by Sydney Catchment Management Authority (now Greater Sydney Local Land Services) aimed to raise awareness of how boaters and fishers can help keep our waterways healthy by protecting habitat, preventing the spread of aquatic pests, and volunteering.


"Healthy Waterways - better boating, more fish" brochure


"Healthy Waterways - better boating, more fish" Youtube film showing how boaters and fishers can help keep our waterways healthy


"Healthy Waterways - better boating, more fish" Youtube film with Arabic and Chinese (simplified) subtitles


World Harbour Project

World Harbour Project publications and communications - includes webinars on various topics including conflict between social and environmental needs in Harbour environments 


World Harbour Project Green Engineering


World Harbour Project resources