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Part 1: Protect and enhance the shared water resources and environmental assets of the Basin

Strategy 1.6
Coordinate the implementation of the Native Fish Strategy

There was significant progress in implementation of the Native Fish Strategy (NFS) in 2006–07, including alien species research and management, and increased community understanding through Native Fish Awareness Week.

The Sea to Hume fishways program gained international recognition through the combination of world’s best practice engineering with biological and hydrological expertise, supported by rigorous monitoring.

Native Fish Strategy

Native Fish Awareness Week 2007. Photo: Dean Ansell

Native Fish Awareness Week 2007

(Photo: Dean Ansell)

Launched in 2004, the MDBC’s Native Fish Strategy is designed to ensure that the Basin sustains viable native fish populations throughout its rivers. The MDBC Native Fish Strategy Annual Implementation Report 2005–06 tracks progress by jurisdictions and the MDBC on native fish management and provides a synopsis on work in each area of the strategy.

During 2006–07, NFS activities included:

  • the completion of Lock 10, commencement and construction of Lock 1, and concept design of Locks 2–6 fishways
  • commencement of work on demonstration reaches in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia, and
  • training of lock staff to tag fish using the fishways.

Community links through the Native Fish Strategy included:

  • Native Fish Awareness Week 2007 – a week-long tour following the Murray River in South Australia involving public meetings, school presentations, discussions with catchment management authorities, local government, Indigenous groups and recreational anglers
  • meetings of the NFS Community Stakeholder Taskforce (CST) held at Toowoomba, Canberra and Sydney
  • attendance of CST members at regional events such as field days and public meetings, and
  • production and distribution of educational material concerning fish kills and the role of wetlands in the ecology and management of native fish.

The NFS convened an expert panel on drought on 6–7 June 2007, and produced a position statement for the jurisdictions to consider.

The issues covered by the expert panel included drought effects on the general fish community, fish with particular life history requirements, alien species, and threatened species. The panel’s report is expected to be considered by the MDBC in late 2007.

The NFS funded Fishes of the Murray-Darling Basin: An Introductory Guide, which is the first book devoted exclusively to the fish of the Basin.

As part of the Sea to Hume fishways program, the NFS and The Living Murray co-produced a brochure, Building Fish Freeways, which highlights their joint work to reinstate fish passage along the Murray River.

Carp management

Lock 8 fish trap. Photo: Paul Donatiu

Lock 8 fish trap.

(Photo: Paul Donatiu)

Alien fish species, including carp, represent one of the key threats to the Basin’s native fish as recognised by the Native Fish Strategy. The strategy advocates integrated alien species control, an approach which employs the coordinated use of a range of control techniques. The MDBC is a major contributor to the Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre, providing more than $1 million in funding in 2006–07 through the NFS. The projects undertaken by the centre during 2006–07 aimed to investigate a number of technical and innovative control methods for alien fish species.

MDBC’s Integrated Pest Management project, a new initiative under the Native Fish Strategy, will apply a range of carp control techniques, to intensively reduce carp at identified ‘hot spots’ and measure the response. This will demonstrate practical ways to address the carp problem.

MDBC staff worked on developing ways to install an automated version of the award-winning ‘Williams carp separation cage’ in new fishways, and two regional carp plans to guide the carp-control activities of local communities and government agencies.

Sea to Hume fishways program

During 2006–07, the fishway monitoring program undertook a number of monitoring and investigation activities.

A major focus of the Sea to Hume fishways program in 2006–07 was the locks and weirs in South Australia, with commencement of the Lock 1 fishway at Blanchetown.

Monitoring of fish communities was undertaken below Locks 1, 2 and 3 as part of a long-term program to investigate the effect of fishway construction on current fish populations, and will inform future fishway designs.

The fishways at Locks 9 and 10 and the barrages were monitored to evaluate fish passage efficiency, and intensive passive integrated transponder (PIT) tagging of fish was undertaken below Lock 10 to monitor fish movement. PIT tag readers have now been installed at Locks 7, 8, 9 and 10 fishways to record the passage of tagged fish. The information is sent to the monitoring team for ongoing assessment.

Following commencement of operations of Lock 10 (Wentworth) fishway, the number of tagged fish reported upstream at Lock 11 (Mildura) increased substantially. Although this suggests the Lock 10 fishway is working well for large-bodied fish, the increase in fishing pressure at Mildura highlights a need to regulate fishing activity until a fishway is constructed at Lock 11. This is being addressed by fisheries agencies in the states.

Lock 1 fishway under construction. Photo: Gary McPherson

Lock 1 fishway under construction.

(Photo: Gary McPherson)