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Barriers shore up the future of the rare Shaw Galaxias

Thursday 9 May, 2013

A partnership between Government agencies, volunteers and scientists has installed barriers to save a rare alpine fish that was in danger of extinction.

Parks Victoria, the Department of Environment and Primary Industries (DEPI) Arthur Rylah Institute (ARI), West Gippsland Catchment Management Authority (WGCMA), VRfish and the Australian Trout Foundation cooperated on a project to protect the only known habitat of the Shaw Galaxias.

ARI Fish Ecologist Dr Tarmo Raadik said: “The Shaw Galaxias has only recently been identified as a distinct species and it only lives at the top of a small creek in the upper reaches of the Macalister River Catchment in the Alpine National Park.”

“Severe storms and floods in 2010 and 2011 had a big impact on their habitat and exposed the fish to aquatic predators, particularly trout, which quickly reduced the global distribution of Shaw Galaxias to only a 300 metre long reach of a 0.3 metre wide creek,” Dr Raadik said.

“We had to take immediate action to prevent the extinction of this species.”

Parks Victoria’s Manager of Environment Programs for the alps Charlie Pascoe said: “We have installed temporary barriers in the creek to prevent trout moving up-stream into the tiny remaining area where the Shaw Galaxias is now found.”

“To make sure the fish aren’t placed at risk by future floods we have also constructed a permanent predator barrier near a waterfall, further down the creek,” Mr Pascoe said.

“Electro-fishing is also being carried out in the creek above the barriers to ensure that any trout remaining in the Shaw Galaxias habitat are captured and moved safely downstream. It isn’t often that you make an intervention on one creek that it will help save an entire species.”

“Instream barriers in lower to mid reaches of streams are seen as a problem because they can affect the movement of native fish, with many barriers either needing to be removed or fitted with a ‘fishway’ that allows fish to pass. In the case of upland streams, barriers can be beneficial to native fish by stopping predators moving upstream,” Dr Raadik said.

Shaw Galaxias is in the process of being scientifically described and it has been nominated for listing as a threatened species in Victoria under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988.

The Victorian Government has a responsibility under the Wildlife Act 1975 and the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988 to protect threatened species. These animals and plants contribute significantly to the biodiversity of their ecosystems. The knowledge we acquire about these species helps us to then take the on-ground steps needed to ensure their survival.

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