Con­ges­tion hits marine highways

Whitsunday Times - - REELIN’ IN -

OUR fish are fac­ing a dilemma when it comes time to hit the open ocean, it seems.

A re­port com­mis­sioned by the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment found that fish in the Mackay Whit­sun­day re­gion are fac­ing up to 4000 po­ten­tial bar­ri­ers to their mi­gra­tion pat­terns.

Catch­ment So­lu­tions pro­ject of­fi­cer Matthew Moore, who au­thored the re­port, said these block­ages could cause na­tive fish pop­u­la­tions to de­cline sharply.

“What a lot of peo­ple don’t re­alise is that al­most 48% of all fish species in the Mackay Whit­sun­day re­gion are di­adro­mous – mean­ing they are a truly mi­gra­tory species and need to transit be­tween fresh­wa­ters and the sea at var­i­ous stages of their life cy­cle, in­clud­ing to breed,” he said.

Lo­cal fish­ing guru Bob Spees agreed that wa­ter­way bar­ri­ers were a prob­lem for fish pop­u­la­tions in the Whit­sun­days.

“(Barramundi) come up to the fresh­wa­ter to spawn, and what a lot of them will do is stay in the shal­lows and slowly grow,” he said.

“Each time they get a wet sea­son, they’ll move down.”

The re­port makes spe­cial men­tion of the O’Con­nell River, which meets the ocean at La­guna Quays, as one of nine high-pri­or­ity wa­ter­ways in need of im­me­di­ate ac­tion.

“By re­build­ing fish pas­sages at these sites, ex­ten­sive ar­eas of fish habi­tat will be opened up to mi­gra­tory fish species,” Mr Moore said.

Mr Spees said the O’Con­nell River had large num­bers of barramundi ex­pe­ri­enc­ing block­ages.

“The O’Con­nell River has al­ready got a lot of barramundi up there,” he said.

“There’s all these bar­rages and holes there al­ready, and there’s barramundi right up there.

“But if they put lit­tle dams in there, you’re go­ing to get even more barramundi.”

The lo­cal an­gler also made men­tion of the Thompson River.

“You only have to look at places like the Thompson River – all the fish that get caught up there,” he said.

“It’s noth­ing to get 100 fish a day off the road there.”

Mr Spees said over­fish­ing was also prov­ing a prob­lem for fish stocks in the re­gion, par­tic­u­larly in re­la­tion to barramundi, which must reach about 80cm long to un­dergo a sex change and be­come fe­male.

“The big thing is that peo­ple have got to stop tak­ing large barramundi that turn to fe­male,” he said.

“If we keep tak­ing the fe­males out, we’re go­ing to end up with no kids.”

The vet­eran an­gler said the re­gion had “the worst barramundi laws in Aus­tralia”, with the bag limit at five barramundi.

“I’d like to see the bag limit change to two over 85cm,” he said.

BLOCK­AGES: Reef Catch­ments coasts and bio­di­ver­sity co­or­di­na­tor Ste­fanie Wab­nik and Catch­ment So­lu­tions aquatic ecol­o­gist Matt Moore in­ves­ti­gate bar­ri­ers to fish mi­gra­tion.

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