Action needed to save marron

Jacinta CantatoreHarvey-Waroona Reporter
The researchers conducted studies at five locations along the river and found marron at only one of the sites.
Camera IconThe researchers conducted studies at five locations along the river and found marron at only one of the sites. Credit: Tari Jeffers

A study into aquatic life in the Harvey River has found urgent action is needed in order to boost dwindling marron and fish numbers in the river network.

Researchers from Murdoch University conducted studies at five locations along the river and found marron at only one of the sites.

The findings provide not only new baseline data about aquatic life in the river, but indicate urgent action needs to be taken to boost marron numbers and conserve other native species.

“This project has provided exciting new baseline data about the aquatic species in the lower Harvey River,” Dr Stephen Beatty from the Murdoch University Centre for Sustainable Aquatic Ecosystems said.

“If the key findings are implemented, we may have a long-term solution to the restoration of the river, and simultaneously future-proof the native freshwater fish and crayfish found there.”

The research, commissioned by Greening Australia and the Harvey River Restoration Taskforce, comprised two major surveys conducted six months apart at four non-restored sites and one restored site in the river.

Researchers found the greatest diversity of fish at the restored site, where rehabilitation works have been undertaken over the past 10 years.

Not only was this the only location marron and gilgies were found, but more Carter’s Freshwater Mussel, a key indicator species of water quality, also appeared in higher densities at the restored site.

Last week key stakeholders from Water Corporation, the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation, Harvey Water, Shire of Harvey, Alcoa, the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development met representatives from Murdoch University, Greening Australia and the Harvey River Restoration Taskforce met to discuss the findings.

Greening Australia senior project officer Dr Christine Allen said although responses at the meeting were positive, climate change was driving increases in temperature and decreases in rainfall and urgent action was needed.

“We need to act now,” Dr Allen said.

“If urgent action isn’t taken in the short term, those native fish numbers will start to decline.”

She said short, medium and long-term action could still be taken.

“There are small steps we can take next year,” Dr Allen said.

These actions include restoring vegetation along riverbanks to provide shade, adding instream logs and rocks for habitat and creating deeper pools in the waterway to provide cooler water during summer.

“I worry sometimes that the Harvey River is perceived as just a public drain,” Harvey River Restoration Taskforce chairwoman Jennifer Stringer said. “The results from the rehabilitated site show that, if we put in some effort, we can improve habitat opportunities for those native species still hanging in there.”

The group’s river care officer Jane Townsend said although urgent action was needed it was important for landholders to be involved in order for any action to have an holistic approach.

“When we get hot we can go inside and put on the air-conditioning, but where these animals are hot, where do they go,” Mrs Townsend said.

“Before the end of the year we will be talking to landholders and we hope to hear their ideas and concerns.”

Landholders along the Harvey River can contact the Harvey River Restoration Task Force by calling 0400 510 019 or emailing jane.townsend@peel-harvey.org.au.

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