Fish numbers up as weed control improves Burdekin waterway

Latest monitoring results show that ongoing work to improve the health of Sheepstation Creek, near Ayr, is improving native fish populations.

Since 2013 NQ Dry Tropics has worked with Burdekin Shire Council, Lower Burdekin Water and local landowners to remove weeds, construct fishways, replenish fish stocks, and reduce levels of excess irrigation water that can help weeds multiply.

This work is part of the Reef Rescue Systems Repair project, funded through the Australian Government’s Reef Program.

NQ Dry Tropics’ Systems Repair Project Manager Scott Fry said the survey results were great news for local fishers – but added that more work was needed to ensure Sheepstation Creek’s long-term health.

The TropWATER boat in action

“The fish survey, carried out by TropWATER in October, found 21 native species – three more than when we last surveyed in 2003.  We also found more species in the bottom lagoon, which indicates that the fishways have been doing their job,” Mr Fry said.

“This is great news because many fish species migrate from the ocean to  these freshwater wetlands to complete parts of their lifecycle. The barramundi is the most iconic, of course.

“There are still a further 13 migratory fish species that should be in this creek. We need a big wet season to help these species migrate from the ocean up the creek,” he said.

Mr Fry added that Sheepstation Creek flows into the Great Barrier Reef Lagoon, and is an important nursery for juvenile species including barramundi and mangrove jack, which help keep tilapia populations in check.

“We ask the community to view these lagoons as nurseries and only take these natives from saltwater reaches once they have reached maturity and have bred – they also taste a lot better than freshwater fish.

“Unfortunately we surveyed large numbers of the invasive tilapia at several sites, however, our efforts to increase creek bank vegetation will also help keep numbers down, as it creates preferential habitat for natives. Any farmer interested in planting trees along their creek bank can contact me at NQ Dry Tropics,” he said.

For more information about the Systems Repair project or the electrofishing survey, please contact Scott Fry on scott.fry@nqdrytropics.com.au or call 0478 119 499.

Main photo: Dr Nathan Waltham, from TropWATER, with a barra from a previous electrofishing survey.