Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

A Fishery Called Murray

By Colin Creighton

Improved water flows have reopened the Murray River’s flow to the sea, but much more needs to be done to restore the fisheries in Australia’s largest estuary.

Currently chair of the National Climate Change Adaptation – Marine Biodiversity and Fisheries initiative, Colin Creighton is developing an Australia-wide business case for estuary repair.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

Juvenile barramundi, mangrove jack and banana and tiger prawns face at least 1500 barriers as they try to move upstream to their preferred habitat on the Burdekin floodplain. In the rivers between Ingham and Port Douglas the last count was over 5500 barriers. The recent flood events in Queensland and NSW saw fish kills as anoxic and acidic water was purged from barraged floodplain wetlands.

All around Australia’s coast, fisheries productivity has lost out to urban and agricultural development. Yet we all like to eat prawns, oysters and fish, so why have we been so blind to the destruction of fisheries habitat and the benefits these habitats provide to all Australians? And what can we do about it?

The plight of the Coorong, Lower Lakes and Murray River’s mouth as an example of the total disregard for fisheries was re­inforced to me when I led the National Land and Water Resources Audit in the late 1990s. In a draft Audit Report I provocatively added a photo and caption suggesting the likelihood of the Murray’s mouth closing and the further loss of fisheries. After a friendly chat with the then Murray–Darling Basin Commission’s CEO, I retained the photo but agreed to tone down the caption.

Thanks to the collective vision of our governments we now have more water flows promised for Australia’s largest estuary. How can we now start the process of...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.