Native Fish Recovery Strategy

Native Fish Recovery Strategy

From the Murray cod (pictured above) to the Southern pygmy perch, fish are an important part of Australia’s rivers. For First Nations peoples, native fish provide a vital cultural connection. For Basin communities from Queensland to South Australia fishing is a major economic driver, with around 10,000 people employed in the sector.

Nonetheless, native fish in the Murray-Darling Basin are suffering significant declines. The 2018-19 fish death events in the Lower Darling served as a visible warning of the significant pressure currently experienced by native fish. Over the long-term, estimates indicate that fish numbers have declined to 10% of their natural populations– a stark reminder that governments need to do more to support our native fish.

We need a coordinated approach to recover our native fish for future generations. Five million dollars has been committed for the development and initial implementation of a Native Fish Recovery Strategy. The strategy will outline a 10-year plan to recover native fish in the Murray–Darling Basin and aims to ensure:

  • healthy and diverse native fish populations are supported and are resilient to extreme events
  • communities are involved in on-ground actions
  • critical native fish habitats, including flows, are protected and effectively managed
  • native fish research and activities are resourced to develop Basin-scale knowledge
  • monitoring is complementary and provides long-term insights and supports decision-making

The strategy will supplement and build on existing knowledge, generated under the previous native fish strategy and will be implemented collaboratively with Basin state governments, First Nations and the wider community. It’s development will be delivered concurrently with the implementation of high-priority implementation activities including the Lower Darling Fish Monitoring and Engagement program and the Native fish emergency response plan.

Engagement during development of the strategy is just the first step in an adaptive and evolving process. As we move into implementation we aim to build stronger partnerships with communities to develop regional plans and implement on-ground actions for our native fish.

The proposed strategy aims to protect and restore native fish populations of the Basin over the long-term, and will be developed and implemented collaboratively with the Basin governments, Traditional Owners and the wider community. It will also build on existing native fish programs, projects and initiatives across the Basin.

Process to develop the strategy

The development of the Native Fish recovery strategy has been progressing under the following broad phases:

1. Targeted consultation (October– December 2019)

In September Joint Governments launched our GetInvolved page and developed a ‘draft framework’ for the Native Fish Recovery Strategy. Feedback was invited from stakeholders to complete a survey on the framework and what they would like to see in the strategy (Figure 1)

Fig. 1 Survey results – what people would like to see in the strategy

To develop a draft strategy a series of targeted workshops were held with key stakeholders from community, science and government backgrounds, which included over 100 people from across the Basin (Figure 2). Expert advice from our First Nations cultural advisory group, technical advisory group and a multi-jurisdictional Steering Group has also informed the development of the strategy.

The survey, workshops and other consultations, such as dedicated sessions at national conferences, have provided a wide range of feedback and input that will be collated to guide development of the draft Strategy.

Fig 2. Word cloud from the community workshop held in December

2. Public exhibition (March 2020)

By March 2020 the draft of the Native Fish Recovery Strategy will be released for the public feedback. We aim to circulate this document as widely as possible to gain insights from a broad range of stakeholders.

3. Final NFMRS drafting and delivery (March-April 2020)

Following the public exhibition period, submissions will be collated and incorporated to refine the final strategy by May 2020.

As we move into implementation post May 2020 we aim to build partnerships with communities to develop implementation plans to consider regional needs and support on-ground actions for our native fish.

Native Fish Emergency Response Plan

While Basin state governments must lead any emergency response, the Australian Government has a role in supporting actions to manage Basin-significant fish death events. Together, joint governments developed the Native Fish Emergency Response Plan to set out a process to coordinate actions and make resources available to respond quickly to Basin-scale risks to native fish. The plan, a snapshot of the plan and a water quality risk map for fish are available here.

Members of the community should report mass fish deaths to their relevant local authority:

  • New South Wales: Fishers Watch – 1800 043 536
  • Victoria: Environment Protection Authority – 1300 EPA VIC (1300 372 842)
  • South Australia: Fishwatch Hotline – 1800 065 522
  • Queensland: Department of Environment and Science – 1300 130 372
  • Australian Capital Territory: Access Canberra – 13 22 81

Lower Darling Monitoring and Engagement Project

Under the Native Fish ReFunding has been provided to NSW Fisheries to undertake monitoring and engagement in the Lower Darling for 2019-20. This program aims to provide a better understanding of the status of fish populations following the 2018-19 fish deaths, map the Lower Darling fish habitat and support community engagement in the region.

A key component of this project is to increase community engagement in the Lower Darling through a citizen science program. Fisheries staff are delivering on-ground coordination across activities and groups to engage the community, build capacity, and share results that will enhance future recovery actions.

Monthly Updates:

Get involved:

Engagement with communities is vital to ensure the strategy incorporates on-ground knowledge.

By March 2020 the draft of the Native Fish Recovery Strategy will be released for public feedback. We aim to circulate this document as widely as possible to reach a broad range of stakeholders and incorporate submissions to further improve the strategy before it is finalised by May 2020.

Feedback is also welcome at any time via NFRS@mdba.gov.au, or the NFRS GetInvolved page. This feedback, along with public submissions and the outcomes from targeted workshops will be incorporated into the draft strategy.

Engagement during development of the strategy is just the first step in an adaptive and evolving process. As we move into implementation from May we aim to build partnerships with communities to develop regional plans and implement on-ground actions for our native fish.

Who’s listening:

Meera Joyce
Native Fish Recovery Strategy Coordinator
MDBA
Email: NFRS@mdba.gov.au