Research under the Tropical Water Quality Hub in the Burdekin Region is gaining state-level media coverage.
Dr Nathan Waltham from JCU heads up a project evaluating the effectiveness of efforts to repair wetland systems across the Wet Tropics.
An article titled ‘Fish control to monitor effectiveness of weed control at Sheepstation Creek’ published on the website for Queensland Country Life details Dr Waltham’s surveys of native fish populations in oxygen-deprived habitats in the Burdekin River.
Queensland Country Life is a Queensland-wide publication focusing on rural news and information for farmers and other stakeholders.
Dr Waltham and his team are monitoring 11 deepwater lagoon sites along Sheepstation Creek in the Burdekin Delta, using electro-stunning techniques to immobilize native fish without harming them so they can be measured and then released back into the water.
Population levels of native fish species, which cannot tolerate de-oxygenated water to the same extent as introduced pest species, are a good indicator for the effectiveness of efforts to control aquatic weeds, which use up oxygen in the water.
Dr Waltham said the presence of large, heathy native fish in the system were an indication of successful weed control programs by resource management groups NQ Dry Tropics and Greening Australia.
“We were bringing up some really big barramundi from these systems, some up to one metre long,” he said.
“To me that suggests that the efforts to remove weeds through mechanical removal and spraying from boats and the air have been fairly successful, things are good.
“But the important takeaway is that this progress needs to be maintained and protected – any gardener can tell you that the weeds always come back.”
Using native fish as an indicator for ecosystem health is nothing new but what sets Dr Waltham’s project apart is the intensity at which it is being conducted.
“On each trip we are catching literally hundreds of fish,” he said.
Dr Waltham and his team are hoping to shortly begin sampling waterways in the Tully area to the north.