Conserving WA's freshwater fish

November 15, 2013

The nation’s leading freshwater fish ecologists gathered last week to discuss threats to Western Australia’s unique freshwater fish species.

The symposium was the first of its kind in WA and attracted close to 100 delegates from across the country.

“It’s a forum to allow researchers, managers and the general public to share knowledge and increase awareness about the plight of our freshwater fish,” said Dr Stephen Beatty, a Research Fellow at Murdoch University.

Dr David Morgan, a Senior Research Fellow at Murdoch University, said there are a number of environmental factors impacting local species.

“Climate change, salination, damming and feral fish species all need to be considered when developing strategies to best manage our waterways and conserve the species which live in them,” he said.

The symposium was organised by experts from Murdoch University’s Freshwater Fish Group and Fish Health Unit, in partnership with the Department of Fisheries. It was supported by the Australian Society for Fish Biology and the Royal Society of Western Australia.

“There are several species of freshwater fish which aren’t found anywhere else in the world – they are truly unique to WA,” Dr Morgan said.

“Many have fascinating biological adaptations that enable them to live in environments ranging from the seasonally drying wetlands on the south coast, to the mighty rivers of the Kimberley.”

Keynote speakers were Dr Brendan Ebner (CSIRO/James Cook University) and Dr Adam Kerezsy (Bush Heritage Australia/Griffith University).

Dr Michael Snow, a Supervising Scientist with the Department of Fisheries said a range of presenters shared their knowledge, from “eminent freshwater ecologists to Indigenous rangers from the Kimberley, who presented about Freshwater Sawfish.”

Other topics discussed included the discovery of species new to science, such as the Blind Cave Gudgeon on Barrow Island and the Little Pygmy Perch – two of the rarest fishes in the world. Dr Beatty spoke about the impact of climate change on WA’s freshwater fishes.

A selection of papers presented at the symposium will be published in a special issue of the Journal of the Royal Society of Western Australia.

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