Marron, Bream and a variety of favourite freshwater natives require healthy waterways to thrive. Native fish populations are at risk of serious declines if land management doesn’t reflect waterway values. For many species, this decline is largely attributed to the loss and degradation of their habitat and poor environmental condition of waterways.
Picture: An underwater Black Bream’s view of a healthy riparian zone with overhanging vegetation.
In the past some practices carried out by landholders have had the potential to degrade aquatic habitat, thus playing a part in the loss of native fish. Further, some of these practices are detrimental to farm productivity, for example clearing riparian (shoreline) vegetation contributes to erosion, loss of soils and nutrients and may cause instability of riverbanks. For species such as Marron, riparian vegetation and snags play an important role.
As well as filtering out nutrients and pollutants, riparian vegetation provides shade and cooler temperatures for shallow rivers in summer while snags provide important hides from introduced predators such as Redfin Perch. Maintaining healthy fish habitat and good water quality is essential to supporting productive fisheries.
Picture: Changes in land use can reduce fish habitat availability and the health of waterways.
Many farmers have a strong connection to their local waterway with fishing often making up an important part of their culture within their families. The ‘Fish Friendly Farms’ program aims to engage local farmers in the best farming practices to maximise the health of native fish and their habitats in rivers and creeks that pass through their properties or are affected in the catchment. The Fish Friendly Farms program is funded through the Recreational Fishing Initiatives Fund and supported by the Department of Fisheries and Recfishwest, in partnership with Ozfish Unlimited and Southcoast Natural Resource Management.
Early this month the first stage of the program got underway in Albany with a community forum held at the Albany Boating and Offshore Fishing Club. Bryn Warnock from Southcoast Natural Resource Management and Jim Allen owner of Albany Bait and Tackle talked to attendees about the program and the close links that some farming practices may have on some of our favourite fisheries.
Participants discussed actions that could be undertaken to protect and enhance water quality and aquatic habitat including:
o Preventing stock access to waterways (reduces bank erosion and prevents direct nutrient addition via effluent in the water and on the banks)
o Managing and restoring degraded riparian vegetation
o Ensuring snags are left in the river to provide habitat
o Weed management to enhance natural regrowth of riparian vegetation
Picture: Healthy riparian zones filter out excess nutrients and pollutants and provide a one stop shop for native fish with food and shelter.
The next stages of the program will involve a workshop run at a demonstration site with local landholders and farmers as well as looking for local fishers to help out with fish habitat restoration works.
If you are interested in being involved in the program, please get in contact with Recfishwest Habitat Officer, Michael Tropiano
For more information on what else is being done in Albany to improve fish habitat click here.