Friday, April 6, 2012

Fishing and playing God

The last couple of months has been “Fishing Competition Season” in our local area with Barham/Koondrook, Moulamein, Murrabit and Wakool all conducting their popular annual competitions. Luring local anglers and visitors alike for a few days of camping, camaraderie, fishing and feasting.
Recreational fishing is a popular local pastime for many adults and children in the Wakool and Gannawarra Shires. Locally caught Murray Cod, pan-fried in butter and lemon juice over a camp-fire is a gastronomic delicacy that is hard to beat. The recent Regional World’s Longest Lunch in Koondrook featured a delicious ceviche (raw fish marinated in lime juice) of Yellowbelly, Barham Avocado, tomato, lime and cucumber as one of the appetizers on the menu.
Given the amount of fish habitat that is now choking our river systems thanks to the flooding of the past two years, one could be led to believe the resurgence of Murray Cod and Yellowbelly is assured. However a significant threat to native fish in the Murray Darling Basin is the introduced fish species Cyprinus carpio or common carp. The introduction of the “Boolarra” strain of common carp into the Murray Darling river system in the 1960s has been a major cause of native fish extinctions. The carp contribute to poor water quality and simply eat the native fish out of house and home as they devour the zooplankton young Murray Cod and Yellowbelly feed on.
The floods of the past two years have seen a massive increase in carp numbers as they bred up in the flooded forests and other shallow reedy areas before returning to the rivers. It is this fact that concerns me when I think about the native fish and the impact of the planned artificial flooding of our local forests via the Koondrook Perricoota Flood Enhancement Project.
When the forests are artificially flooded will this mean the carp are given an artificially perfect breeding environment? If the water used to artificially flood the forests is then returned to the Murray River, will billions of new carp hatchlings be released as well? If this is the case, how is this a good thing for the Murray River?
On a personal level I am still far from convinced of the merits of “playing God” with our environment via the Koondrook Perricoota Flood Enhancement Project. It may well be years before the benefits or negative impacts are seen. In this instance I hope I my current beliefs are proven wrong.

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