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“Reflect. Share. Collaborate.” - Native Fish Forum 2024
Native Fish Forum 2024.
Chris Walsh.

Here at Finterest, we strive to support our native fish populations and those working to protect them.

At the Native Fish Forum 2024 in Canberra, the focal point was to reflect, share and collaborate around all things native fish. As researchers, concerned community members and industry professionals we tend to get funnelled into silos of practice and thought. Whether conscious or unconscious, these feedback loops can prevent the advancement of collective knowledge.

Some of the major feedback from the Native Fish Forum 2023 was the need for more discussion. We already know what is working for native fish recovery, we just need further collaboration to enhance our efforts. The forum this year had a workshop-based focus, allowing for knowledge sharing and partnerships to occur between a diversity of native fish enthusiasts.

Day 1

Day 1 started off strong with a welcome to Country from Ngunnawal man Bradley Bell. He spoke to the group in language and expressed the Cultural importance of fish for the Ngunnawal community. We thank Brad for his time and his ongoing support of the Native Fish Recovery Strategy.

Next, we had the pleasure of being welcomed to the forum by the Chief Executive of the Murray–Darling Basin Authority, Andrew McConville. He spoke about the value of the work being done for native fish and showed support for those working towards positive outcomes.

Andrew McConville introduction. Source: Chris Walsh

After an introduction by facilitator Siwan Lovett, Managing Director of the Australian River Restoration Centre, the first plenary sessions commenced. We heard from Brenton Zampatti from CSIRO about collaborative science and conservation of migratory species. The second plenary came to us from outside the boundaries of the Murray-Darling Basin from the Glenelg Hopkins Catchment Management Authority (GHCMA). Alex Lewis spoke about the projects happening within the catchment and some of the innovative work being for native fish recovery.

Brenton Zampatti plenary. Source: Lucy Stuart
Alex Lewis plenary. Source: Chris Walsh

The afternoon kicked off with two workshops delivered by small-bodied fish experts Peter Rose from North Central Catchment Mangement Authority (NCCMA) and Luke Pearce from NSW DPI Fisheries. Each presenter gave a talk about small-bodied native fish in their area and led activities in table groups to facilitate discussions.

After a short break for afternoon tea, we commenced another workshop session lead by Katherine Cheshire from NSW DPI Fisheries all about getting ready for the next catastrophe. With recent catastrophic events in the Basin and changing climatic conditions, this session focused on building our ability to respond to the next event.

The day ended with a session all about radical ideas happening in the fish space from around world. Siwan shared clips of these innovations in action, including the salmon cannon and the fish door bell. However, the winner of the session was the AI technology being used in the salmon door project in Norway.

Peter Rose presenting on small-bodied fish recovery in the Lowlands. Source: Chris Walsh
Luke Pearce presenting on small-bodied fish recovery in the Uplands. Source: Chris Walsh

Day 2

The morning sessions of day 2 had a strong focus on Indigenous connection to land, water and fish through culture. Director of Indigenous organisation Kuma Kaaru, Jack Buckskin shared with us his journey of integrating language and culture into traditional education settings. He shared the impact that bringing culture to academics can have for all members of the community. Next, we heard from Ginninderry Conservation Trust’s Caring for Country team lead Tyson Powell. Tyson shared the actions happening within the conservation trust to integrate Indigenous knowledge at Ginninderry, in both urban and conservation settings.

The day 2 workshops were led by Jarod Lyon from Arthur Rylah Institute and Katherine Cheshire and Sam Davis from NSW DPI Fisheries. The theme was Recovering Icons of the Basin, with table groups sharing knowledge about specific species populations in particular areas.

Sam Davies presenting on icons of the Basin. Source: Chris Walsh
Jared Lyon presenting on icons of the Basin. Source: Chris Walsh

Fieldtrip

A huge highlight of this year’s forum was the fieldtrip to Tharwa village led by Upper Murrumbidgee Demonstration Reach Coordinator Antia Brademann. The group had the pleasure of hearing from a variety of local people championing native fish recovery in the recovery reach.

The attendees split into three groups and travelled along the river at three different spots to hear about community action, advocacy, government conservation actions, recreational fishing and the challenges unique to the Upper Murrumbidgee River.

The Forgotten River advocate Andy Lowes at Tharwa Bridge. Source: Lucy Stuart
Maxine Cooper Chair ACT and Regional Catchment Coordination Group, Chair Landcare ACT Board, National Landcare Network, and ACT Gov Freshwater Ecologist, Danswell Starrs. Source: Antia Brademann
Geomorphologist Brad Davies, Matt Beitzal and Lisa Evans from ACT Fisheries. Source: Chris Walsh
Rec fisher Andy McGovern, Danny Spelic from Waterwatch and Ranger Darren Rosso giving presentations. Source: Antia Brademann

Day 3

On day 3 there was a strong focus on pest species both inside and outside in Murray-Darling Basin. Our first plenary was delivered by freshwater fish biologist Mariah Millington. She spoke to her PhD topic on ornamental fish and possible invasive threats to the Basin. Mariah’s talk was the most highly rated at the forum, with 43 delegates rating her talk ‘excellent’ – keep an eye out for more information from Mariah!

Mariah Millington presenting on ornamental fish. Source: Chris Walsh

Next, we heard from Jared Lyon about the wicked problem that is carp control in the Basin. He presented a variety of different options for control and was followed by Alex Lewis from GHCMA who demonstrated tools and techniques for combating pest fish. Alex even showed an example of a screen at Rocklands Reservoir work to stop carp movement.

The pest fish discussion ended with a panel including Mariah, Jarod and Alex responding to audience questions.

Panel answering serious questions about carp. Source: Chris Walsh
The panel having a laugh and enjoying the audience engagement. Source: Chris Walsh

The last presentation was delivered by Boyd Blackwell from NSW DPI Fisheries, Boyd presented native fish through an alternative lens, exploring the ecological economics of fish. Stay tuned on for more news on this emerging and evolving topic!

Boyd Blackwell presenting on ecological economics. Source: Chris Walsh

Feedback

During the forum we collected a variety of data and feedback from attendees through online polls. Mariah Millington, Alex Lewis and Boyd Blackwell received the most votes​ and Luke Pearce & Peter Rose’s small-bodied workshop was the most enjoyed.

Comments:​

  • ‘I thought the field trip speakers were my highlights – experts in many realms all working to solve a wicked problem locally with national ramifications and consequences for native fish.’​
  • ‘Mariah’s presentation was excellent, and hearing Boyd’s extra experience was really valuable.’​
  • ‘Really enjoyed the two presentations on the Glenelg – was great to hear about some interventions and experiences from smaller systems and not just the Murray!’​
  • ‘Mariah and Peter Rose bought some fantastic insight into the work and study that they have done a special mention to Alex for his work in the Glenelg Hopkins area’​
  • ‘Jack Buckskin, Siwan Lovett and Brenton Zampatti. All very engaging speakers and great story tellers. I learnt a lot from Jack’s talk about how important language is in understanding people, places and history. Siwan made the forum very enjoyable and easy to follow. Brenton adding a Lower Murray perspective to a predominately upper MDB forum was great.’​
Workshop table groups. Source: Lucy Stuart
MDBA Riverine Ecology team 2024. Source: Lucy Hurst

Next year

Although the forum was rated quite highly all round, the constructive criticism was also welcomed! Next year we would like to deliver more hands-on activities, opportunities for attendees to join or contribute to existing or future projects beyond the forum, and more concise, directed discussions/workshops which can potentially lead into actions and future outcomes.

Thank you to everyone who attended and participated in this year’s forum. When people gather together, share knowledge, collaborate and reflect on learnings – it provides an important opportunity to create real change for our native fish populations.

Featured image: Native Fish Forum 2024.

Source: Chris Walsh.

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