Fish-friendly farms initiative launches in Albany

Recfishwest Habitat Officer Michael Tropiano is championing a new program focused on a joint recfishing and agricultural sector effort to promote healthy waterways to protect marron, black bream and other favourite species.

The Fish Friendly Farms program was launched earlier this month. It is funded through the Recreational Fishing Initiatives Fund, is supported by the Department of Fisheries and Recfishwest in partnership with Ozfish Unlimited and South Coast Natural Resource Management.

Native fish populations are at risk of serious declines if land management doesn’t reflect waterway values, Michael said.

“For many species, this decline is largely attributed to the loss and degradation of their habitat and poor environmental condition of waterways,” he explained.

Estuaries across the Great Southern are home to black bream.

“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 including redfin perch.

Maintaining healthy fish habitat and good water quality is essential to supporting productive fisheries.

Michael said 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,” he said.

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, of South Coast Natural Resource Management, and Albany Bait and Tackle owner Jim Allen 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:

  • Managing and restoring degraded riparian vegetation;
  • Preventing livestock access to waterways (reduces bank erosion and prevents direct nutrient addition via effluent in the water and on the banks);
  • Ensuring snags are left in the river to provide habitat; and,
  • Weed management to enhance natural regrowth of riparian vegetation.

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 contact Recfishwest Habitat Officer Michael Tropiano.

Great Southern native fish populations are at risk of serious declines if land management doesn’t reflect waterway values.