Murdoch scientists team up with primary school to catch elusive goldfish

December 18, 2017

Gold rush: Dr Stephen Beatty nets goldfish after electrofishing at Duggan's Dam

Gold rush: Dr Stephen Beatty nets goldfish after electrofishing at Duggan's Dam

Murdoch University fish researchers have joined forces with Year 6 pupils at a south west primary school to eradicate feral goldfish from a local waterway.

The pupils from Cowaramup Primary School detected goldfish in Duggan’s Dam, Cowaramup Brook in early 2017. With the help of Nature Conservation Margaret River Region and the Department of Fisheries, the students designed and instigated a research project to learn about the species and the damage it can cause to aquatic environments.

Under the supervision of teacher Jemma Hopkins, the students used underwater videos to estimate the abundance and identify the goldfish by their markings. They also trialed different methods for removing the species.

Despite training the fish to come to food, the pupils’ attempts to catch the goldfish proved unsuccessful, which is when Dr Stephen Beatty from Murdoch’s Centre for Fish and Fisheries Research was called in.

Dr Beatty has been researching the nuisance species in south west waterways for over a decade, recently discovering that football sized goldfish are travelling hundreds of kilometres through the Vasse River.

Dr Beatty and his team removed almost 3,000 goldfish from Duggan’s Dam in 2011.

“Goldfish are remarkably astute at avoiding nets so electrofishing is one of the best methods of removing them,” Dr Beatty said.

“From the excellent monitoring that the students had undertaken in the dam this year, we were also confident there were no native fish present that could be impacted by the electrofishing.”

Electrofishing involves temporarily stunning the fish so they can be caught.

Dr Beatty and Tom Ryan undertook the eradication with the students acting as spotters around the banks last week. Thirteen large adult and six juvenile fish were successfully removed. They were then humanely euthanased in ice baths.

“The project has been a wonderful example of how young people can undertake meaningful science projects that make a difference to their local environment.  These are the ecologists and environmental scientists of the future,” said Dr Beatty.

Goldfish are one of the world’s most widely introduced pest fish and thrive in the nutrient rich waters, impacting water quality, introducing disease and disturbing habitat.

Goldfish can enter river systems after being dumped from aquariums into catchment lakes.

“The next step will be to work with the Department of Fisheries to introduce native freshwater fish to the dam that are fantastic at consuming pest mosquito and midge larvae,” added Dr Beatty.

The pupils have made a video about their project, which can be viewed here.

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