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Rabbits of the river: Trout are not native to Australia

The World’s Largest Trout in Adaminaby pays homage to an introduced pest that harms native fish. Halans/flickr

Yesterday’s announcement of the removal of trout from a small creek in the Alpine National Park to protect a critically endangered native fish highlights the problem that is trout.

Trout have been so successfully and so pervasively introduced into Australian freshwater systems that most people now think that they are native. The truth is that trout have caused the extinction or demise of many freshwater fish and invertebrate species, including some excellent angling fish such as the Murray cod, Macquarie perch and trout cod.

The introduction of trout to Australia was supported by Acclimatisation Societies which supervised the hatching and release of introduced trout without any consideration of its impact on native fauna.

This does not surprise us because we know that these organisations deliberately introduced thistles, sparrows and rabbits, all of which are well known pests in an Australian context.

The surprising thing is that trout have evaded the pest label, and despite abundant evidence that they are causing the extinction of native fauna, their continued existence in Australian rivers is supported by government agencies that release millions of trout fry every year.

These same agencies are responsible for protecting the native species impacted by trout, and ironically breed and release trout’s victims at the same time. In 2012, Victorian Fisheries hatched and released Murray cod, golden perch, trout cod, silver perch, Australian bass and Macquarie perch, all of which are native fish struggling to compete with trout. At the same time they released brown trout and rainbow trout despite the fact that many trout populations are known to be self – sustaining (in other words, not at risk of extinction). To be fair, Victorian Fisheries now only releases troutinto lakes or impoundments, but the movement of these populations into nearby rivers is virtually guaranteed.

Trout have been removed from other small rivers and creeks in the past to protect the barred galaxias and the spotted tree frog. The responsible agencies are aware that trout are a serious threatening process, and yet they are unlikely to ever remove trout from a large river. This is because recreational fishers have come to believe that trout fishing is something which every Australian has a right to. Worse, many fishers think this is because trout are a natural part of the Australian environment and therefore deserving of our protection.

Obviously, trout fishing is an important part of the tourism industry and many rivers are so well stocked with trout that there is no point in trying to remove them. On the other hand, few Australians realise that we enjoy trout fishing at the cost of excellent native angling experiences.

Macquarie perch and trout cod (formerly known as blue-nose cod in Victoria) were excellent angling species before they became endangered. Murray cod are still highly prized where populations are not too vulnerable to be fished, but they no longer grow to the great sizes of the past.

People who fished the Murray River used to be called “whalers” because they came back with monster fish as large as themselves. Current regulations require anglers to throw fish back if they are above a certain size, so the thrill of fishing for something that could be larger than yourself is no longer available.

This is not due to trout alone, of course. River regulation, pollution and habitat alteration all play a role in declines of our native fish. But the reverence with which trout are held among fishers obviously plays a role.

The construction of a barrier to prevent trout from moving into a small stream and the removal of 700 trout by electro-fishing is an important and laudable step towards the protection of one species of upland native Australian fish. The Shaw galaxias is a critically endangered species that would not have survived without this intervention.

But let it also remind us that trout are threatening native fish in rivers, impoundments and lakes, and too few people are concerned because they think that trout belong here.

Unfortunately, trout are actually worse than rabbits, because they are both carnivorous and voracious. As a fisher said in 1905 in the Sydney Morning Herald: “Trout will eat anything but the log fences hereabout. They have cleared out the bream, the cod and the carp, but we will not mind that if they stay themselves.”

Some of us do mind.

Join the conversation

62 Comments sorted by

  1. John Newton

    Author Journalist

    Thanks for this, I had no idea they were such a problem - they eat carp? That's some carnivorous fish. To what extent are carp still a giant problem?

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    1. Simon Kaminskas

      Desk-Bound Environmental Scientist

      In reply to John Newton

      Carp cause damage by environmental degradation -- disturbance of sediments, resuspension of soil particles and nutrient, raised turbidity and water plant loss. This causes more than enough damage, particuarly in lowland MDB habitats. Carp have not really a predation problem for native fish or other fauna up until now.

      Alien trout don't degrade habitats, but do predate ... enthusiastically.

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  2. Peter Ormonde

    Farmer

    Ms Sue we obviously need to encourage the sporting use of nets and electrofishing as a sport of gentlefolks rather than delicate flies and crafty lures. Trouty mixo perhaps?

    There are actually some rather clever fishing techniques used by aboriginal people involving various narcotic plants - notably Indigofera australis around here - which stun rather than kill the fish leaving the desirable species to recover sans predators. A lot less dispruptive than nets or explosives.

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    1. Tom Rayner

      CRN Research Leader at Charles Darwin University

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      John: Trout, while carnivorous, are sensitive to water quality; whereas carp have broad environmental tolerances and have the biological potential to invade most Australian waterways. My latest research (in review) suggests that carp are still a giant problem.
      http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-2427.2004.01232.x/full

      Peter: Narcotic plants have their own issues, but have been used to successfully remove brown and rainbow trout from streams for conservation of native fish.
      http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00288330.2006.9517437#.UZA4SLWLDTo

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    2. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Tom Rayner

      We should be most wary of using any toxins near waterways Tom as I'm sure you'd agree. I'm not sure what rotenone is but it appears to actually kill rather than stun. But whatever is in Indigofera seems to have passed the test of time and suggests fish affected by it are presumably fit for human consumption.

      Seems there's a bit of a diversity in these plants - some stun others kill. There's an interesting globalish collection of them here: http://www.primitiveways.com/fish_poison.html Have to be careful that any effects are temporary and don't cause any "collateral damage" to non-target species.

      Might be worth a grant to have a look at some of these local plants and work out the active ingredients with a view to knocking out trout and carp and the like and give the residual natives a bit of breathing room.

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  3. John DeJose

    Principal

    A common problem of shifting baselines, the acceptance of trout parallels that of deer - though trout were more assiduously introduced. Deer (several species) are also exotic imports, populations of which are exponentially increasing and damaging ecosytems, and also perversely enjoy protection for sport at the expense of the environment.

    This is a social issue with effects that environmental scientists may study and activists rue. Shooters and Fishers, on the other hand, fully recognise the social dimension and go political - forcing state governments to further folly in NSW and Vic.

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  4. Sam Jandwich

    Policy Analyst

    Very interesting article, and thanks for alerting me to the fact that trout aren't native. I had no idea!

    I must say however that I don't agree with your stance on angling. It seems to me that torturing fish by tricking them into getting a hook stuck in their mouths, then reeling them in on it, all for the "thrill" of a fleeting entitlement to feel superior to a fish, and to imagining oneself (wrongly) to be self-reliant, has always struck me as a particularly depraved and sadistic behaviour, which I'm sure spills over into other areas of the lives of people who partake in it. It should be discouraged wherever possible.

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    1. christopher gow

      gainfully employed

      In reply to Sam Jandwich

      I do hope you are being somewhat tongue-in-cheek, it is a bit tough to suggest that fishers are people who have "particularly depraved and sadistic behaviour" because of their past-time. 'Come the revolution' I pray you do not end up as commissar of fisheries management, fishos as the new kulaks?

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    2. Sam Jandwich

      Policy Analyst

      In reply to christopher gow

      No I'm not actually. I don't think fishing is that far-removed from the images we saw of cattle being mistreated in Indonesia which so outraged us all last year. Maybe if it could be scientifically proven that fish don't experience pain or stress, or if the fishos would simply devour their prey in a single gulp like many other sorts of predators do, then things might be different.

      I'm not saying that fishing is indefensible in all situations, but to catch fish in such an unnecessarily barbaric way, and to call it a "sport" no less, is I would suggest rather deranged.

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    3. Dion Wedd

      Curator Territory Wildlife Park, Darwin at Territory Wildlife Park

      In reply to Sam Jandwich

      Hi Sam,

      Check out the article in Fish and Fisheries, Blackwell Publishing Ltd 2012 by Rose, Arlinghaus, Cooke, Diggles, Sawynok, Stevens adn Wynne. The article is called-Can fish really feel pain? It's quite heavy reading but does debunk a few myths about pain and how it is experienced by other animals. Worth reading if you share in the idea that all animals must experience pain and discomfort in a similar manner to humans and therefore causing such pain through practices such as fishing is…

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    4. christopher gow

      gainfully employed

      In reply to Dion Wedd

      Thank you for that Dion.
      My concern with Sam's comment was more the suggestion that fishers were somehow particularly nasty folk and that this would spill over into other parts of their lives. A very large number of people fish for recreation and I don't find fishers (and I am not one anymore, children put me off!) especially sadistic or depraved compared to my usual acquaintances.
      My fishing experience both as a catcher and observer of others is that people usually treat the fish as gently as they can, released fish seem to swim off in no apparent distress.
      I cannot see the point in alienating the literally millions of Australians who go fishing by accusing them of depravity and sadism! Rather, fishers need to informed of this issue about trout; with knowledge comes change.

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    5. Dion Wedd

      Curator Territory Wildlife Park, Darwin at Territory Wildlife Park

      In reply to christopher gow

      No problems, I agree mostly with your sentiments and generally speaking most people do look after the resource well, but sadly there is still that rednecked attitude that really gives the antifishing lobbyists sound irrebuttable ammunition for their cause. Anyway we have really digressed.
      Susan, thanks for the stimulus to open some of these concerns, trout are here to stay, same as carp unless the new virus sorts them out. Something to watch I am sure. It does make sense to protect that which needs protecting and if that means getting rid of the trout in those areas then there really should be any arguement.

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  5. Doug Hutcheson

    Poet

    If there are any trout-stocked waters in SE Qld, I will be happy to dust off my fly rod and do my bit to help prune the population of this delicious introduced pest. Win-win, except for the trout of course. "8-)

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  6. Matt Barwick

    Manager

    It's important that we discuss impacts to our native fish communities because they have certainly experienced significant decline since European colonisation, but lets keep it fact-based. It is just factually incorrect to suggest that trout have had any role in the decline of Murray cod, or on any change to their length frequency (?). You might want to track down a copy of a literature review undertaken by Wayne Fulton with funding from the MDBA a few years back on impacts of trout on native species…

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    1. Simon Kaminskas

      Desk-Bound Environmental Scientist

      In reply to Matt Barwick

      In response to each of your comments:

      "It’s important that we discuss impacts to our native fish communities because they have certainly experienced significant decline since European colonisation, but let’s keep it fact-based. It is just factually incorrect to suggest that trout have had any role in the decline of Murray cod, or on any change to their length frequency (?)”
      There is no doubt that impacts of introduced trout on Murray cod have been minor, but there is evidence some impacts have…

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    2. Susan Lawler

      Head of Department, Department of Environmental Management & Ecology at La Trobe University

      In reply to Matt Barwick

      I am not trying to alienate fishers. Fishers are key to the problem, because as long as they insist on having unlimited access to an introduced species so they can pretend they are in Scotland, our native fish will suffer.

      What we need to do is set aside some upland rivers for our natives and bring back some fishing experiences that are no longer availalbe anywhere in the world. Then we would have some world class angling that was truly Australian.

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    3. Simon Kaminskas

      Desk-Bound Environmental Scientist

      In reply to Susan Lawler

      Agree.

      There has to be some balance. And currently there is no balance. In terms of upland stream habitat devoted to alien trout, and upland stream habitat devoted upland native fish and other fauna, the ratio is about 99.999% vs. 0.0001%.

      In terms up fishermen being able to legally fish for wild blue nose cod (aka trout cod) and Macquarie perch in upland river/stream habitats, the ratio is 0%.

      In terms of members of the community such as naturalists being able to see an upland river/stream…

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    4. john davies
      john davies is a Friend of The Conversation.

      retired engineer

      In reply to Simon Kaminskas

      I've fished all my life, with various (legal) methods and for many different species. Simon is obviously a fisherman but it seems he hasn't mastered the art of fly fishing.

      Fly fishing for trout (or salmon, among others) definitely isn't "UTTERLY BORING". That's why it is practiced by millions all over the world. It is also accessible to people from all walks of life, a major form of relaxation and a massive generator of tourist dollars for rural areas.

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    5. Simon Kaminskas

      Desk-Bound Environmental Scientist

      In reply to john davies

      Ho ho ho, wrong on all counts. I have mastered all forms of trout fishing, including fly-fishing. And I spend more time trout fishing than any other type of fishing. I just don't kid myself over the impacts of alien trout.

      You also misunderstand my comment. While it is true I think trout are fairly ordinary fish, that have been ridiculously over-hyped and over-rated, my point above was not that trout are boring, but that it is boring to travel all over the world ... and catch the same two species of trout wherever you go. I would much prefer to tangle with the native upland fishes in any country I'm in, whatever they be.

      BTW, the popularity of fly-fishing for trout does not make the turning of every single upland river and stream in SE Australia into trout ghettoes acceptable.

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    6. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to john davies

      Only trouble is John the delicate art of fly fishing doesn't kill enough of the things. Even worse some folks actually practise catch and release and put the buggers back.

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    7. john davies
      john davies is a Friend of The Conversation.

      retired engineer

      In reply to Simon Kaminskas

      Re first para - I've been fly fishing for trout (a lot) for more than fifty years and haven't mastered it yet. One reason it isn't boring. Some say you never master it, but congratulations if you have. Apologies for questioning your skills.
      It is a pity you spend "more time trout fishing than any other form of fishing" if it is so boring.
      I don't kid myself about the impacts of trout either. But they are real and won't go away in many places.

      Second para - I've fished for trout in five countries. Different waters. Different scenery. Different fish behaviour. Different food supply (and flies). Different techniques. Different people and culture (a wonderful way to meet the locals). I could go on, but these are other reasonS it isn't BORING! In fact it is terrific!
      But to each his own, as they say.

      Third para - Not sure about the word "ghettoes", but agree.

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  7. Dion Wedd

    Curator Territory Wildlife Park, Darwin at Territory Wildlife Park

    Susan's article is a good overview of the state of southern fisheries and implicates trout as one of the many problems facing our natives. I think the question that needs to be asked is, what have we already lost because of trout, particularly in some of the Tassie upland streams.
    I haven't chased the "speckled ferals" much in my fishing career, but have been jeered and abused by purists for snapping their necks and throwing them up on the bank like I do with carp, while persuing other native…

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    1. Simon Kaminskas

      Desk-Bound Environmental Scientist

      In reply to Dion Wedd

      " I think the question that needs to be asked is, what have we already lost because of trout, particularly in some of the Tassie upland streams."

      Excellent question. The short answer is, we've lost lots, almost everywhere where trout have been introduced. Frighteningly, many of the loss are unknown, or only very sketchily observed/recorded. Mountain galaxias (galaxias olidus) are now known to be a species complex of at least 14 species -- and numerous populations in upland streams have been…

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    2. Susan Lawler

      Head of Department, Department of Environmental Management & Ecology at La Trobe University

      In reply to Dion Wedd

      Trout will never be totally removed (just like rabbits and deer). The difference is that hunters who shoot feral mammals know that they are enjoying a sport based on an introduced species, while some peopee really do think that trout are native and deserve protection. All I want is a little balance in the conversation.

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  8. Dion Wedd

    Curator Territory Wildlife Park, Darwin at Territory Wildlife Park

    In reply to John and Simon,
    I can't help but congratulate you both on convincing arguements to both sides of this debate. Flyfishing is an amazing "sport" and I hasten to say that the majority of the fly fishing fraterntity are keen fisherman for both trout and natives, and what great sport natives provide on fly gear.
    The whole debate can simply be compared to other feral animals that are well and truely established on this continent and the "damage" they cause. Sadly we must endure a long…

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    1. Simon Kaminskas

      Desk-Bound Environmental Scientist

      In reply to Dion Wedd

      Thanks Dion

      I agree with your thoughts, and I like your positivity. But ...!

      The two very big differences between trout and all other feral animals in Australia is that trout are still actively bred and released into the Australian landscape (by the same government agencies charged with preserving native fish) ... and people still utterly deny their impacts.

      No other feral animals are deliberately bred and released (using taxpayer dollars) into the Australian landscape, in large numbers…

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    2. John DeJose

      Principal

      In reply to Simon Kaminskas

      Actually, we do import, rear and repeatedly release thousands if not millions of introduced animals, at times. Of course, this is our world-leading biological control program which sprang from the successful control of prickly pear via the cactoblastis moth - AND changed the world. The cane toad in QLD was ill-conceived biocontrol gone horribly wrong and there are way too many examples like this globally. Today, we make proper investment in research to avoid deleterious impact. Fighting fire with…

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    3. Dion Wedd

      Curator Territory Wildlife Park, Darwin at Territory Wildlife Park

      In reply to Simon Kaminskas

      Hi again Simon, I'm hearing you loud and clear mate. I agree that stocking of areas that are critical habitat for Maquarie Perch or any other species for that matter that is teetering on the edge of oblivion is nuts, no matter what the political agenda of the trout lobbyists. I also think that all resources should be directed to re-establishing native populations that are damaged or degraded by ferals and poor environmental management without question. The truth is that a lot of habitat is altered…

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    4. Simon Kaminskas

      Desk-Bound Environmental Scientist

      In reply to Dion Wedd

      "The truth is that a lot of habitat is altered due to dams that create habitat that is historically (if I can used that) beneficial to trout and not so natives that evolved in a flood/drought situation."

      The flood/drought thing is far less applicable to native fish whose primary habitats are upland river habitats -- species like Macquarie perch, blue nose cod, blackfish and galaxias species.

      Upland rivers and streams in SE Australia generally have fairly reliable flow, and generally don't experience…

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    5. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Simon Kaminskas

      I'm in the curious situation of loving trout and fly-fishing - grew up fishing the skinny water on the hills near here and now forty years down the track I have returned.

      During this period there have been massive "restocking" efforts and the end result is that there are lots more trout - and they are smaller - much smaller. Easier to catch though.

      Unfortunately pumping the rivers full of fresh hungry trout fingerlings does very little to improve the food supply - save for giving larger fish a snack for a while.

      I'd actually be wondering whether increasing the overall rate of predation is a sensible strategy for getting a better angling result myself. Just strips the creeks clean. Might be more sensible to be encouraging crickets and bugs rather than feeding them an expensive diet of smaller potential rivals.

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    6. Simon Kaminskas

      Desk-Bound Environmental Scientist

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Maybe you would love blue nose cod (aka trout cod) and Macquarie perch even more ... if there were an upland stream you could go fly-fishing for them in ...

      (And that's the point ... there should be such streams ... for conservation AND fishing ... but there ain't ...)

      Hungry trout, big or small, do no favours to upland native fish, and other vulnerable upland fauna ...

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    7. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Simon Kaminskas

      Yes Simon - no favours to upland fish, crustaceans or anything else remotely edible actually - basically strip mining the creeks - and worse, I suspect the "restocking" efforts don't actually do much of a favour for anglers either. Not unless we start feeding them as well. And wouldn't that be a shocking idea?

      I've caught a few barramundi on flies but not around here obviously - very hard hot work that... too much adrenaline for me nowdays. Memorable though.

      The one thing I have noticed most obviously and sadly is the decline in platypus in those creeks up on the tops... used to be crawling with them. Not sure if trout had anything to do with that or not. But a sad loss for whatever reason.

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    8. Simon Kaminskas

      Desk-Bound Environmental Scientist

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      The effects of trout and irresponsible trout stockings on platypus is a real sleeper issue.

      There has to be some effect. After all, the primary food of both is aquatic macroinvertebrates ...

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  9. john davies
    john davies is a Friend of The Conversation.

    retired engineer

    The author of this article said she wanted balance on the subject. Fair enough.

    Interesting how the conversation became progressively less balanced, ignoring changes that have occurred over about 150 years, questioning the competence of those who disagree (including those who are accountable for what happens) and proposing solutions that are environmentally and economically impractical. Zealotry!

    A lot is being done to "help" native species (including I'm sure by the most zealous participant in this conversation) . More could be done. But "get rid of the trout" can't happen - for many very good reasons.

    This will probably get a response. More could be said, but I've said what I want to say!

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    1. Simon Kaminskas

      Desk-Bound Environmental Scientist

      In reply to john davies

      Then you see claims and content that is not there!

      It is very, very clear that no-one on here is advocating trout eradication or anything like it.

      We all recognise that trout are here to stay as eradication is impossible, and as they play an important economic and recreational role in some areas.

      The discussion has been about balancing the impacts of trout – which currently are not balanced in any way, shape or form – and objecting to the 'trout-at-all-costs' mentality that has prevailed so far.

      Quite simple, very reasonable.

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    2. john davies
      john davies is a Friend of The Conversation.

      retired engineer

      In reply to Simon Kaminskas

      That's good Simon. Thanks.

      My reaction was based upon having seen similar conversations, and what they can lead to, before.

      And as you know there are people out there who, quite ridiculously, believe trout can and should be eradicated completely.

      Having said that, from my perhaps limited knowledge, I don't believe those responsible (and accountable) for freshwater fisheries management have the "trout at all costs mentality" that is "not balanced in any way, shape or form" you suggest. I don't believe it is that bad. Presumably the opening para of the article we are commenting on is one example.

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    3. Simon Kaminskas

      Desk-Bound Environmental Scientist

      In reply to john davies

      Well, as I said, when you see state fishery department personnel utterly refusing to acknowledge that alien trout have impacts on native fish, when they make ridiculous claims like 'rainbow trout don't eat native fish' [when they evidently do] and 'Macquarie perch and trout have co-existed for 100 years' [when evidently Macquarie perch have disappeared from most 'trout streams'; when you realise that with the exception of a couple of tiny headwater streams, there is not a single upland stream reserved in a trout-free state for upland native fish; when you realise inappropriate trout stockings are still occurring in endangered Macquarie perch habitats, or streams connecting to endangered Macquarie perch habitats ... you will see this is why I say there is zero balance in the current situation.

      And again, the standard clarification -- no-one is talking or proposing trout eradication -- just some fine tuning so upland native fish and other upland native fauna can persist.

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    4. john davies
      john davies is a Friend of The Conversation.

      retired engineer

      In reply to Simon Kaminskas

      Gosh, what a long conversation Simon. Three months for a reply.

      I can accept some of what you say, but I disagree with your habit of attributing to those actually responsible for managing fisheries (rather than just talking about it, like yourself ) things they don't really say. The subject is not as simple as you claim and the authorities neither stupid, nor dishonest, as you infer.

      You will probably reply to this, possibly in another three months, but I think I've said all I want to say.

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    5. Simon Kaminskas

      Desk-Bound Environmental Scientist

      In reply to john davies

      It is not made up. The claims I mention above have been made to my face by state fisheries personnel involved in alien trout promulgation. The frighteningly thing is they believe, or are trying really hard to believe, this rubbish that they spout.

      The state fishery departments have a lot of extremely pro-trout people in them who also happen to be trout-fishers in their spare time. I'm not going to go into characterisations of them, but I will say plainly that they are disingenous about the issue of trout impacts and trout stocking impacts on native fish -- both historical and continuing -- and are clearly failing to seriously balance conservation of endangered species like Macquarie perch with their trout fishery/trout stocking agenda.

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    6. Simon Kaminskas

      Desk-Bound Environmental Scientist

      In reply to john davies

      NB I DO apologise for the delay in replying. I didn't check this thread for quite a while.

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    7. john davies
      john davies is a Friend of The Conversation.

      retired engineer

      In reply to Simon Kaminskas

      Thanks Simon. Those who do say that would be "stupid or dishonest" as I said. And I understand your concern.
      Having said that, I do not believe those are the views of the people that matter amongst the fisheries authorities.

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    8. Simon Kaminskas

      Desk-Bound Environmental Scientist

      In reply to john davies

      Maybe ...

      However, any time you like, you can visit Gaden trout hatchery -- a government facility using taxpayer funds to propogate two damaging invasive fish species for release into the wild -- and you can listen to staff their give a special talk about how "there were no large sporting native fish in mountain streams before trout" ... even though they know this is demonstrably untrue.

      A friend of mine "experienced" this just recently and couldn't believe their ears.

      It's a situation that sums up the broader situation nicely.

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  10. Michael Oakes

    Efficiency Analyst

    On the 14 June 2013 my copy of the VFFA newsletter arrived in the post.

    There are some comments from the editor I am certain not all VFFA members share.
    After reading all the posts made and the writings of the VFFA editor, there is a rather large knowledge gap around trout and freshwater angling. There are numerous angling shows on pay and free to air networks that show how when communities, business and anglers work together, sustainable fisheries are created.
    I have fished Victorian rivers…

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    1. Simon Kaminskas

      Desk-Bound Environmental Scientist

      In reply to Michael Oakes

      Certainly, many upland streams once inhabitated by Macquarie perch, trout cod and other upland native fish have been degraded by poor farming practices.

      And yet, many other upland streams that once supported these upland native fish are not seriously degraded and still offer excellent habitat ... but support high densities of predatory alien trout. Hmmm.

      And I disagree with the regularly-aired argument that 'only trout can attract fishermen', and find it somewhat offensive. Rubbish, I say…

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  11. Geoff Newberry

    Motelier

    I live in a border region near the head of the Murray Darling system and the highland, cold trout waters of Walcha Nowendock etc. There never has been any trout caught or seen in the temperate waters in the near vicinity of Tamworth, however they can be caught in the upper reaches around Nundle.
    I doubt that the trout would have any effect on the Murray Cod, Yellowbelly or worst luck the European Carp, simply because they cannot tolerate the warmer waters of that system downstream of the Peel River in Tamworth.
    Likewise the cod and Yellowbelly will not travel to the colder waters.
    You might be able to correct me if I am wrong.
    Regards

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    1. Simon Kaminskas

      Desk-Bound Environmental Scientist

      In reply to Geoff Newberry

      yes, trout rarely occur in lowland or even 'slopes' habitats because they're too warm. And therefore, yes, trout would not have much effect on native fish in those habitats.

      But trout absolutely dominated upland/montane habitats, to the severe detriment of the native fish that once occurred in those habitats. Generally only the blackfish species appear to be able to persist in trout-dominated streams. Generally, everything else disappears.

      In the southern Murray-Darling basin, the large…

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    2. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Simon Kaminskas

      The first steamships imported into Australia were two vessels brought in to harvest Murray Cod. Did well apparently.

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    3. Simon Kaminskas

      Desk-Bound Environmental Scientist

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Interesting. Where have you read this? I would like to know more. I have not heard this before.

      I know a lot of paddle steamers between the 1860s and the 1920s enthusiastically participated in the lawless orgy that masqueraded as a commercial Murray cod fishery (in reality a mixed commercial/recreational/illegal fisher orgy with nets, setlines, crosslines and even explosives). But clearly these were brought in primarily for transport, with fishing a side-effort.

      RE the lawless orgy, a good…

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    4. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Simon Kaminskas

      Angling in Australia - its history and writings by Bob Dunn, David Ell Press 1991 ...

      an excellent bit of work actually ... lots of evidence of previous abundance and distributions ... marlin in Sydney Harbour and the like ... and some very impressive material on various Aboriginal fishing industries and practices... worth a squiz while you are bolted to the desk...

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    5. Simon Kaminskas

      Desk-Bound Environmental Scientist

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      That is a book I'm aware of, but have never had a chance to read.

      In any case, if you like that sort of thing, then you should look up 'True Tales of the Trout Cod'. You'll love it, and be amazed how large native fish once abounded in 'trout streams' in the southern MDB.

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    6. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Simon Kaminskas

      Thanks Simon - I'll get the Woolibuddha Library on the case....

      If I can't catch 'em I can read up.

      History - to the extent we have it - is absolutely essential when we start talking about biodiversity, ecology and the like... we seem to reset our benchmarks of a natural state every generation or less and we become oblivious to what is being really lost.

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    7. Simon Kaminskas

      Desk-Bound Environmental Scientist

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      No need Peter! It is online at:
      http://australianriverrestorationcentre.com.au/mdb/troutcod/

      There a couple of fantastic papers on historical ecology worth reading:

      Jackson JBC, et al. (2001). Historical overfishing and the recent collapse of coastal ecosystems. Science 293: 629–638.

      McClenachan L, Ferretti F and and Baum JK (2012). From archives to conservation: why historical data are needed to set baselines for marine animals and ecosystems. Conservation Letters 5: 349–359.

      Also, in a freshwater context:

      Humphries P & Winemiller KO (2009). Historical Impacts on River Fauna, Shifting Baselines, and Challenges for Restoration. Bioscience 59: 673–684.

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    8. Simon Kaminskas

      Desk-Bound Environmental Scientist

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Yep, there's some amazing stories regarding past distributions of native fauna people aren't aware of ...

      Upland streams of the southern MDB abounding with blue-nose cod (aka trout cod) and Macquarie perch ... billabongs of the Murray teaming with magpie geese ... the Goulburn Plains alive with spotted-tail quolls ... giant green sawfish as far south as Jervis Bay ... etc. etc.

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    9. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Simon Kaminskas

      Many thanks Simon ... I hunt them out ... read tales of serious fish and the men who killed them ... Hemmingway's one and all.

      Sobering stuff - but does give one an idea of what might be possible. Romantic guff! Sadly.

      Did some serious research a few years back when I was running a landscaping operation in the northern beaches of Sydney... ecological restoration type stuff. Found the records of the local wildflower show ... about 50 years of them ... and from that records of local garden…

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    10. Simon Kaminskas

      Desk-Bound Environmental Scientist

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      you would also find Pauly's seminal 'shifting baselines' paper (in regards to fish stocks) fascinating. If you email me, I can send you all these papers.

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    11. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Simon Kaminskas

      Not sure how to do that directly Simon but you can get me my name all lower case and one word at hot mail (also one word) dot com.

      Much appreciated.

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    12. Simon Kaminskas

      Desk-Bound Environmental Scientist

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      yes ... just been discovering there seems to be no way of emailing or private messaging people on here ...

      Well, I have emailed them to the address you alude to above }:-)

      Hey, speaking specifically of Sydney -- and something I can't email -- I recommend 'The Diaries of Watkin Tench' -- written and published by an intelligent young naval officer present for first several years of the Sydney Cove settlement. Tim Flannery put an annotated version out only a few years ago.

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    13. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Simon Kaminskas

      One of my Great Eye-opener Books, the good Watkin ... and so beautifully alive and observant ... gives a curious insight into how the First Arrivals saw the locals ... at least initially. Seems the trouble really started with free settlers, land grabs and fences. Tragic really.

      From a different angle - more subtle and intimate - the notebooks of Lt Wm Dawes ... charts his friendship with an aboriginal girl and the exchange of language ... a delightful love story told by a very observant scientist. I'll track it down ... huh ... bugger the note books ... here's a whole holy shrine devoted to the fella ... http://www.williamdawes.org/dawes.html

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