S.A.Morris, D.A.Pollard, P.C.Gehrke & J.J.Pogonoski
River ecosystems support much of Australia’s aquatic biodiversity, as well as important recreational and commercial fisheries resources. The scarcity of rivers in this dry continent makes them all the more precious, and therefore requiring carefully executed conservation measures. In coastal New South Wales and the Murray-Darling Basin, as in other parts of Australia, troubling problems are emerging in our river systems. There are conflicts over the use of water, frequent signs of environmental degradation, damaged catchments, declining natural resources, barriers to fish passage, and threatened aquatic biodiversity. Concern also arises from the increasing occurrence of various forms of pollution, declining fish stocks with ever more disjunct distributions, increasing distributions and abundances of alien fish species, and the lack of adequate tools for assessing and monitoring river health. Despite the level of interest, there is little factual information available on the nature and status of riverine biological resources in coastal New South Wales and Murray-Darling Basin waters. Responding to these problems, the Fisheries Action Program (FAP) and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) contracted NSW Fisheries to compile a report on threatened and potentially threatened freshwater fish species present within the waters of coastal New South Wales and the Murray-Darling Basin, and from this to formulate a subset of non-technical advice highlighting freshwater fish diversity ‘hotspots’ and suggest community projects and environmental engineering solutions in relation to the conservation and protection of priority species and locations. This project thus aims to educate as wide an audience as possible in outlining the currently known distributions of threatened fishes in coastal New South Wales and Murray-Darling Basin waters, illustrating the environmental problems facing these threatened species, and where possible suggesting solutions to reducing the impacts of threatening processes operating in their habitats.
The aims and objectives of the study were thus to identify:
- the distribution and abundance status of threatened and potentially threatened freshwater fish species in this area;
- the “hotspots” of freshwater fish diversity in this area;
- the habitats of and key threatening processes affecting these threatened and potentially threatened fish species; and
- the opportunities available to address those conservation problems identified through both community action and environmental engineering solutions and changes to current conservation status listings.
This project focused primarily upon riverine environments, rather than major impoundments, particularly with regard to recommendations in relation to current conservation listings and the cessation of stocking of alien species in areas supporting listed threatened species or endangered ecological communities.
A specialist workshop was held in conjunction with the Annual Conference of the Australian Society for Fish Biology in Albury during August 2000, which brought together around a dozen experts from government and non-government organisations, private industry and academic institutions from Queensland, Victoria, South Australia and New South Wales with particular expertise in this area. The aims of this workshop were to discuss the proposed conservation status of as many of the identified species as possible, and to attempt to reach a consensus on a conservation status for each species. Information from the workshop discussions was incorporated into the individual synopses prepared for each species wherever appropriate. Comments and advice were also sought from a wide range of other individuals and organisations with expertise in freshwater fishes and aquatic conservation ecology and management throughout the duration of this project.
Thirty species of the roughly 80 freshwater fish species found in this area of south-eastern Australia are analysed in this report. Using IUCN conservation categories and criteria, we have recommended listing these taxa as follows: 0 taxa as Extinct (EX), 2 taxa as Critically Endangered (CR), 8 taxa as Endangered (EN), 4 taxa as Vulnerable (VU), 0 taxa as Lower Risk conservation dependent (LR cd), 3 taxa as Lower Risk near threatened (LR nt), 11 taxa as Data Deficient (DD), and 2 taxa as Lower Risk least concern (LR lc).
The report highlights the conservation concerns for many of these threatened and potentially threatened freshwater fish species occurring in this area of south-eastern Australia. The main causes of declines in freshwater fishes in the area were identified as habitat degradation (due to various forms of water pollution, catchment development and agriculture-related activities), changes to water flow regimes, barriers to fish passage, the introduction of alien fish species, and fishing pressure.
This report recommends a number of actions to abate these threats in areas where significant aggregations of threatened and potentially threatened freshwater fish species have been confirmed to exist. Actions include the management of pest species, protection of instream cover and riparian vegetation, preservation of the genetic integrity of native fish stocks, removal of barriers to fish passage, and restoration of natural flow and temperature regimes in coastal and inland rivers and streams of New South Wales and the Murray-Darling Basin.
This report, through the species conservation synopses and general discussion presented, will hopefully provide the impetus for more research, community action and funding in relation to the protection and conservation of threatened freshwater fishes and their known habitats in the freshwaters of coastal New South Wales and the Murray-Darling Basin.
- 30 detailed species conservation synopses
- High quality full colour fish illustrations
- Revised colour distribution maps
- Hotspots of threatened freshwater fish diversity in south-eastern Australia
- Detailed recommendations and commentary on the conservation problems of freshwater fishes
For further enquires & purchase order forms please contact Shaun Morris or David Pollard at NSW Fisheries, PO box 21, Cronulla 2230
Phone (02) 95278411, Fax (02) 95278576.