There were smiles all round when 1000 baby barramundi were released into the Mackay Gooseponds as part of an ongoing battle to reduce the threat of the pest fish tilapia.
Community members—including plenty of families and children—came together to help set free bucket-loads of 10–30cm-long barramundi fingerlings.
Matt Moore, Catchment Solutions aquatic ecosystems project officer, said the day demonstrated the Mackay community was united in their bid to prevent tilapia from taking hold in local waterways.
“The community came together to help raise funds for the release of the baby barra, which are native predators of tilapia and provide one of the few methods of natural control,” Mr Moore said.
“The barra were a good size when they were released and hadn’t been fed for two or three days, so they went in the water hungry and ready to get the job started.”
The Mackay barramundi release was a coordinated effort between community members and a wide range of groups, including Catchment Solutions, Reef Catchments, Mackay Area Fish Stocking Association Inc., the Queensland Recreational Fishing Network, Mackay Recreational Fishers Alliance, Mackay Amateur Fishing Clubs Association, Sunfish Queensland Inc., and local businesses Tackle World Mackay and Nashy’s.
The local community donated more than $8,000 to help buy and release the barramundi stock.
Fisheries Queensland issued a permit to Reef Catchments to allow for the barramundi release after the tilapia species were recorded in the Mackay Gooseponds in May.
The pest species are listed in the world’s 100 worst invasive species and represent a critical threat to Australia’s native aquatic biodiversity. The spread of tilapia in Queensland has also been recorded in the Burdekin River and the Fitzroy River at Rockhampton.
Mr Moore said humans were often behind their spread.
“Tilapia infestations can be easily caused by people moving fish between waterways for a range of reasons—sometimes as bait, sometimes people catch the species for aquariums without understanding what they are.”
He said with tilapia now recorded in the Mackay region, it was essential people learned how to identify the species.
“People need to be able to recognise this fish so they don’t unknowingly increase the tilapia threat. Tilapia are very hardy, and once the are established in a flowing river or creek it is almost impossible to eradicate them.
“There are also large fines if you are found in possession of Tilapia—up to $150,000. If you catch them, they should be buried away from the water or disposed of in a bin.
“The barra release was a great first step and is in conjunction with an Australian Government project aimed at preventing tilapia’s spread in the southern Great Barrier Reef region,” Mr Moore said.
Future tilapia control activities will include tilapia habitat removal and the construction of ‘fish hotels’ to provide natural habitat for predatory native fish.