Who knew the Snowy River was home to the oldest freshwater fish in Australia?
A Snowy River Bass, caught in the Snowy River, was found to be 49 years old, older than the oldest recorded Murray Cod. Those present at the well-attended Snowy River Alliance annual general meeting were surprised to learn that the Snowy River holds the record for the oldest freshwater fish in Australia.
Guest speaker Robert Caune, of the Gippsland Angling Clubs Association and member of the Snowy Advisory Committee, said while it is the oldest freshwater fish ever found in Australia, he believes there are even older fish in the Snowy River.
Mr Caune said Snowy River Bass, also called Australian Bass, is a long-lived, slow-growing species.
“Mature adults migrate from freshwater to estuaries to spawn in early spring, triggered by minor flooding or increased in stream flow,” Mr Caune said.
Snowy River Alliance chair Elena Guarracino said it was concerning to hear that the last known successful recruitment of Snowy River Bass was in 1985, when there was a sustained high water event or minor flooding.
“The Alliance is hopeful the newly-formed Snowy Advisory Committee are focused on the need to ensure the environmental water releases will provide the right amount of water, at the right time to give fish like the Snowy River Bass a chance to spawn to maintain or increase its population,” Ms Guarracino said.
“The meeting was told that the Snowy River Bass cannot migrate up the river as they once did, prior to the Jindabyne Dam being built, as there is no longer enough water for them to navigate the river,” she said.
“So anglers are unlikely to see Bass near Dalgety any time soon, unless the river receives the recommended and legislated minimum 28 per cent flow. This year only about 12 per cent will be released,” Ms Guarracino added.
Steve Samuels, president of the Monaro Acclimatisation Society, the second guest speaker, made no apology for his organisation’s love and support for trout but acknowledged that trout are an introduced species and should be managed in a sensitive manner.
“Sure, there is an impact, but that is endured because of the economic significance these introduced species provide. Trout are an important economic resource for the Snowy Monaro Region,” Mr Samuels said.
“Mr Samuels said that trout are a very good indicator of the health of a waterway and its carrying capacity. Prior to the building of the Snowy Scheme and importantly Jindabyne Dam and the Moonbah aqueduct, the Moonbah River was regarded as a premier trout stream in the district,” Mr Samuels said.
He added that anecdotal historic records indicate that 3lb fish were common and the odd 5lber was a realistic chance.
“The decline in the Moonbah as a significant fishery occurred very soon after the building of Jindabyne and the Mowamba aqueduct,” Mr Samuels said.
“It was a two-pronged decline. First, was the cessation of flows down the Snowy, which radically changed the habitat from one of a trout strong-hold to one of virtually notrout. The second was the loss of connectivity to the Moonbah. While still a first-class habitat, it lost the migrants that visited each year.”
The good news is that the environmental water releases into the Snowy River has seen a dramatic change in the Snowy River as a trout fishery.
Despite that, the Mowamba Weir and aqueduct the Moonbah River still holds a reputation as a nice trout fishery.
Even though the Monaro Acclimatisation Society has stocked the Moonbah River each year with a good number of baby trout, fish in the Moonbah since the loss of connectivity, rarely reach legal size, let alone the monsters of the past.
“So, without this connectivity the Moonbah now acts as a nursery fishery. No longer do the small hatchlings have the capacity to run downstream into the Snowy, to larger waters with more food, to move downstream to eat larger prey as they grow. Instead they are restricted to the nursery waters where their growth is not only determined by food, but also by space.
“The reputation of the Moonbah in the past was intrinsically linked to larger spawning fish returning home. That link is now broken,” Mr Samuels said.
But he said there must be a way to supply connectivity between the Snowy River and the Moonbah River and still meet the needs of Snowy Hydro.
“Australia is a country blessed with skilled engineers, surely a solution that fills all needs is not beyond us.
Mr Samuels also spoke about the idea of creating a fishing / hiking trail from Dalgety to the Jindabyne Dam wall.
Less than 2 weeks until the big flow down the Snowy. Jindabyne dam spillway will be open for most of the day, so worth a look in the morning before driving around to Dalgety to join the community in celebrating the spring flow. Presentations in the Dalgety Hall, free BBQ to public, displays and videos for all.
The Annual General Meeting of the Alliance will be held on May 31, 2017 in Jindabyne. The venue is the Jindabyne Neighbourhood Centre, in Snowy River Ave at the rear of the NPWS Visitors Centre, commencing at 6pm.
Despite years of effort and hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars spent to save the iconic Snowy River we still have unreliable flows, and now no-one to monitor what is actually happening. The Snowy Scientific Committee (SSC) originally provided independent oversight – it was disbanded by the NSW Government in 2014 because it was critical of their efforts.
Before abandoning the SSC, the NSW Government promised to create a new Snowy Advisory Committee to replace it and provide additional community input – this has still not happened after 3 more years.
In the absence of any committee the Snowy Water Initiative has been managed by staff of the NSW DPI for the past 17 years. Last week (24th March 2017) the DPI management advised the remaining scientific and cultural staff that they were redundant. So as far as the NSW DPI is concerned nobody should be managing the river and no ongoing science is needed.
With all the money that’s been spent, notionally to return 21% of the original flow back to the river, and now there is nobody with a scientific background to monitor the responses and manage the process.
This is gross negligence by the NSW Government, who in a letter from the Minister Hon Niall Blair to the Deputy Premier (Hon John Barilaro) in December 2016, advised categorically that the staff of the Snowy Water Initiative (SWI) team would be transferred from his ministry to that of Minister for Environment and Heritage (Hon Gabrielle Upton). It is now clear that this is not going to happen.
Every year since the increased flows commenced in 2002, the response of the river environment has been monitored and evaluated. Each year the timing and magnitude of the flows has been varied to change the impacts and achieve particular objectives. Scientific papers have been written and published, which is all part of the important process required to optimise the returns on the water put back into the river.
One could almost be excused for thinking its a conspiracy to remove anybody who knows how the river system should function, in order that the Snowy River additional flows could be removed.
Is Snowy 2.0 (the new pumped storage hydro scheme) now going to be used as an excuse to claim the water recovered from the irrigated catchments for the SWI and use it to top up the new hydro generators? Who knows. The local communities from Dalgety to Orbost cannot help but be cynical about the motives of our elected representatives.
An increased flow of 21% of the original river was legislated to be in place by 2012. 5 years later and typically all that is received is 14%. DPI water have stated that in 2017 21% will be released, but that is on the back of a very wet 2016 when all NSW catchments received their full allocations. The 2017 release is based on 2016 rainfall and its record wet winter. If 2017 is a drier or average year (highly likely), then flows will be back down to 14% in 2018.
All this is way short of the original target of 28% which was supposed to be delivered by now, but which can never happen. This was the figure nominated in the original Commission of Inquiry as the minimum necessary to improve the downstream river environment.
Write or email your local member and complain that the Snowy again is being ignored or worse, and they must ensure the existing scientific and cultural staff remain in NSW Government employment looking after the health of the river.
On 26th Feb 2013 the NSW Government proposed to replace the Snowy Scientific Committee (SSC) with a new group. Unlike the SSC the proposed Snowy Advisory Committee would not be independent of Government as it would report directly to the Minister for Primary Industries. The loss of an independent scientific voice would be a major backward step. For more information about the Government’s proposal, please visit the Department of Primary Industries website.
Comments on the proposal are required by April 1st 2013, and should be addressed to Snowycomments@water.nsw.gov.au
The Alliance strongly opposes this proposal and asks supporters to write to the NSW Government objecting to the removal of the Snowy Scientific Committee. Environment Victoria has suggested a few important points that could be addressed in a submission in the attached article on their website.
On March 20th Greens Senator Hansen/Young proposed a motion in the Australian Senate calling on the NSW Government to reverse its decision and to reinstate and fully fund the independent Snowy Scientific Committee and all its legislative functions. The motion was defeated by 38 votes to 10, with most labor senators abstaining.
The Alliance published a press release on March 19th outlining the issues. Media release 19 March 2013.
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