Waterways management - our presenters
Dr Joanne Lenehan
Jo Lenehan works in environmental water management (Lachlan River Valley) for the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) and lives on small acreage near Wyangala Dam. Jo completed her Honours in animal behaviour science (the use of synthetic dog urine to deter wallaby browsing on revegetation sites) in 2005 and a PhD in feral horse ecology and management in temperate sub-tropical woodland in 2010.
Jo has always been involved in applied ecology research before more recently moving into project management roles with Central Tablelands Local Land Services (LLS) and now water management with OEH. A highlight of the LLS role was project manager for Booroolong Frog Saving our Species (SoS) project – which provided further insights into upland/montane ecology while also working mostly with inland rivers and creeks across the Western slopes and plains.
Working with a dedicated team of scientists, Jo both assists with the collection and then uses monitoring data in real-time to inform operational decisions when delivering water for environmental outcomes, such as fish movement and breeding, colonial waterbird breeding, and improved vegetation condition and extent.
Recent achievements include being a member of the Commonwealth Environmental Water Office (CEWO) Long Term Intervention Monitoring Project (vegetation and community engagement), OEH’s Annual Spring Waterbird Diversity and Abundance surveys, and Lake Brewster Pelican Banding Project – which is one example of some of the Citizen Science and National Science Week projects Jo has also been involved in.
The Australian pelican (Pelecanus conspicillatus) is part of an iconic group of birds called colonial-nesting waterbirds. Waterbirds respond to large flows and extensive flooding by breeding in colonies of tens to hundreds of thousands of individuals (~800,000 birds Narran Lakes, 1983) but usually in relatively few continental locations. However, their adaptations and dependence on highly variable boom-bust ecosystems can also be a vulnerability if those ecosystems are fundamentally changed by water resource development.
Lake Brewster, in the Lachlan River catchment, is an important site for pelicans. It is one of the few sites in the Murray Darling Basin where pelicans breed in large numbers (> 5000 nests), and can be actively managed using environmental water. While records only date back to 1984, in recent years the size and regularity of the pelican breeding colonies has been increasing.
One important but poorly understood factor of pelican ecology is whether pelicans return the site where they hatched, known as natal site fidelity. If pelicans exhibit natal site fidelity it has important implications for wetland and water management.
This talk outlines how natal site fidelity banding research, and regular breeding colony and ecosystem (e.g. water quality, aquatic plant growth) monitoring informs day-to-day decisions during the delivery of environmental water – in the case of Lake Brewster for over 6 months while the pelican colony is active.
Luke Pearce is currently employed as a Fisheries Manager for the Greater Murray region with the Aquatic Ecosystems Unit within NSW DPI Fisheries based at Albury. He has been employed by DPI Fisheries since 2005 and in his current or similar roles since 2006. Luke has been employed in various natural resource management roles since 1999.
Graduating with a bachelor of Environmental Science from the University of Canberra in 1999, Luke has recently completed a research Masters in the Conservation Management of Southern Pygmy Perch in NSW, in the context of climatic extremes and alien species.
Luke is married with three young boys aged 8,5 and 3 years old. He grew up on a family farm in the Tumut region and has a love for the outdoors, mountain biking, fishing and particularly hiking and fishing in remote areas. Luke has a deep passion for our threatened native fish and their recovery, particularly the smaller species of less notoriety.
Macquarie Perch (Macquaria australasica), a once prolific species in the slopes and upland regions of the southern Murray Darling Basin has undergone significant declines in its abundance and distribution. Highly revered as an angling and table fish, with many historical accounts referring to them as the best freshwater table fish in Australia, Macquarie Perch supported significant recreational, subsistence and commercial fisheries across their historic range.
Until recently the Abercrombie River and the Upper Lachlan River above Wyangla Dam supported one of the most abundant and viable populations of Macquarie Perch remaining within NSW. This population also represents the northern most extant of current range of Macquarie Perch within the Murray Darling Basin.
The introduced species Redfin Perch (Perca fluviatillis) was first discovered within the upper Lachlan catchment in 2005. Redfin Perch are known to impact on Macquarie Perch by direct predation (especially on eggs, larvae and juveniles) and are also a carrier of the epizootic haematopoietic necrosis (EHN) virus. Since the initial discovery, redfin have spread throughout the entire length of the Upper Lachlan River and into Wyangala Dam. While they have been collected in the lower reaches of the Abercrombie River, there is little evidence to suggest they have established resident populations in that part of the catchment as yet. Because their distribution has expanded rapidly throughout the upper Lachlan River, it is highly likely that they will eventually spread further up into the Abercrombie River and its tributaries. Since their invasion into the Upper Lachlan no Macquarie Perch have been sampled since 2008 and evidence suggests that Macquarie Perch are now locally extinct from the Upper Lachlan River.
Due to this potentially devastating threat, and with no feasible way of effectively controlling the spread of Redfin Perch, it was decided that a population of Macquarie Perch be taken from the wild and securely housed at the NSW Department of Primary Industries’ Narrandera Fisheries Centre. This captive population could then be held until a safe refuge site isolated from the potential impacts of Redfin Perch could be found in an attempt to establish a refuge population isolated from the impacts of Redfin.
One of the aims of this project was to identify and assess the streams within the Upper Lachlan and Abercrombie Catchments for their suitability as a refuge habitat for Macquarie Perch, as well as the presence of an effective barrier to fish passage that would prevent invasion of the refuge site by Redfin Perch. The refuge site could then to be used to attempt to establish a self-sustaining population of Macquarie Perch, where they would be safe from the potential impacts of Redfin. This population would also form an insurance population should Redfin Perch colonise all of the Abercrombie River and result in the loss of the wild population. The project used the habitat mapping and species-habitat association models developed by Gilligan et al. (2010) to assess the suitability of the stream habitat for Macquarie Perch. Only one suitable refuge site was identified in the Retreat River in the Abercrombie catchment.
The opportunity to hold the population of Macquarie Perch also gave researchers the opportunity to test novel captive breeding techniques whilst the fish are being held at the Narrandera Fisheries Centre. Historically, Macquarie Perch have proven difficult to breed in the hatchery environment (Ingram et al., 1994), with only limited success achieved in the past by using “ripe” fish (ready to spawn) captured from the wild. Through careful planning, the establishment of an artificial stream habitat, collaboration with other state agencies and trial and error, the first captive breeding of Macquarie perch was achieved at the Narrandera Fisheries Centre in 2010.
This first event resulting in 139 fingerlings being released into the Retreat River refuge site in the upper Lachlan catchment in March 2011. A second spawning event in 2011 produced 7,500 fingerlings which were released into the same refuge site in February 2012 (Pearce, 2013) and the third and final successful spawning occurred in 2013 with 11,700 fingerlings released into the refuge site in 2014.
Terry Steele is one of only four Fisheries Conservation Officers working in NSW with the Department of Primary Industries. He is the only Fisheries Conservation Officer based in inland NSW, and he works within the broader Fisheries compliance team, authorised under the NSW Fisheries Management Act. Terry is also authorised under State fisheries legislation in Queensland and Victoria to deal with cross border incidents.
Terry joined Fisheries NSW in 2010 after a varied career in the wool industry, farming and auction sales management, and a life time as a keen fisherman. His first Fisheries role was as a compliance officer based in Inverell in the New England District. He relocated to Dubbo and the Macquarie District in 2012, and in 2014 Terry took on a specialist role in Fisheries conservation based in Bathurst involving investigating cases through inland NSW.
Terry's key role is to protect fish habitat and investigate breaches of the Fisheries Management Act, such as dredging, reclamation and blockage of fish passage in streams and rivers. Terry is passionate about our waterways and through his role as a Fisheries Conservation Officer he is striving to protect our native fish and the riparian environment for future generations.
Presentation: A snapshot of Fisheries Habitat Conservation
There are four specialist Fisheries Conservation Officers working for Fisheries NSW. We conduct investigations into alleged habitat destruction within freshwater rivers and stream and in coastal regions. We work under the authority of the Fisheries Management Act and the associated Regulations.
The common matters I deal with are dredging and reclamation and the blockage of fish passage. Fisheries issue permits to individuals and local councils to conduct certain types of works within waterways and my role is to audit these permits to ensure compliance with the conditions set out in the permit.
My presentation will present photos of matters I have investigated and the need for the community to learn more about healthy waterways and to become champions of the cause.
Based in central west NSW, Sam has worked for Fisheries in aquatic habitat protection and rehabilitation for the past 17 years. Some career highlights include the completion of the Brewarrina Fishway and management of the lower Macquarie River connection flow in 2016, which facilitated the migration of fish from the Barwon River into the Macquarie system. What she enjoys most about her work is collaborating with a range of partners and using good science to underpin management. When she is not planning and directing habitat improvement projects across the state and designing environmental flows for fish, she can usually be found on a river, in a boat, with a dog, catching (and releasing) native fish.
Presentation: Mapping the future of our native fish
Native fish species of the Murray-Darling Basin have adapted over time to the extreme conditions experienced in the Basin, including highly variable rainfall and flows. Many of the fish species that are native to the Basin have specific requirements relating to both flow and habitat availability and have developed to thrive in these conditions. Unfortunately, with the development of the Basin’s river systems and subsequent regulation, many of the natural flow regimes have been altered, habitat has become degraded and fish communities have suffered dramatic declines.
Extensive habitat mapping has been completed along river reaches across various regions of NSW focusing on specific physical features relating to requirements of aquatic species and management. The resulting development of comprehensive data sets has allowed a greater understanding of the cumulative impacts of various pressures and threats and has resulted in the development of an approach that guides strategic prioritisation for investment in rehabilitation and intervention activities. Information from the habitat mapping projects has also been used to identify relationships between river flow height and habitat availability to inform water management activities.