Invasive and feral species can cause considerable ecological harm, and feral fish are no different. Australia has approximately 40 feral freshwater fishes, and the number is growing. Unfortunately, once established, eradication is a costly process that can often only be achieved at a localised scale. As with many costly biological processes, prevention or early intervention is better than the cure. To achieve this, information is required that reveals current distribution and possible range extensions of feral species. Furthermore, due to resource limitations, government agencies require community assistance to identify the distributions and possible range expansions by feral fish in as close to real time as possible. New technologies can facilitate greater engagement of community to help in gathering this information.
FeralFishScan (available at www.feralfishscan.org.au) is a new tool to help with feral fish management. It is one component of the Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre’s community pest mapping resource called FeralScan – see www.feralscan.org.au. FeralFishScan can be used by the community to record sightings of feral fish, such as carp, gambusia and goldfish. The resource includes a website and mapping page, and was also recently released in a phone app for Apple and Android devices, enabling users to quickly and easily record information in the field. This can include the location of sightings, as well as information about numbers seen, behaviour and habitat. The app will also soon enable images to be taken and uploaded, and previous sightings can be viewed on an interactive map.
A species profile page offers basic descriptions of feral fish, and includes some information about possible native look-alike species. An image library is provided to help users identify species. FeralFishScan has been tailored for the Upper Murrumbidgee River, available here.
A community engagement campaign Carp Loves 20oC is run each Spring to raise awareness about FeralFishScan and to increase knowledge of carp breeding behaviour in the Upper Murrumbidgee River catchment.
Currently, very little is known about carp breeding and recruitment in the Upper Murrumbidgee Catchment, which is likely to differ greatly from our understanding of carp reproduction in the lowland areas of the Murray Darling Basin. To date, the database contains in excess of 500 records of carp, goldfish, tilapia, oriental weatherloach, eastern gambusia and redfin perch. With FeralFishScan, the community can contribute vital information on behaviour, abundance and range expansions of feral fish species. This information will aid future management actions.
So if YOU observe a feral fish, don’t ignore it. Record it in FeralFishScan!