Study of Peel waterways’ health reveals good diversity and abundance of native fish and crayfish

Carter's vulnerable freshwater mussel.
Carter's vulnerable freshwater mussel.

A RECENT study into the health of Peel’s waterways as part of the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation’s Healthy Rivers program has revealed a good diversity and abundance of native fish and crayfish.

Department scientist Dom Heald said the survey showed native species were still prevalent throughout the region.

“Of particular interest were the large number of cobbler in the Murray River, upstream of Pinjarra,’’ he said.

“The apparently healthy population in the middle reaches of the Murray is encouraging as other studies in the South-West have suggested cobbler populations are in decline due to factors such as salinisation.

“Protecting areas such as the Murray is important for the species’ survival.”

Mr Heald said evidence of koonac in Buchanan’s drain conservation category wetland was great to see from a scientific point of view.

“This native crayfish is uniquely adapted to thrive in these ephemeral waters by digging burrows to avoid drying of surface waters,” he said.

Carter’s freshwater mussel was also found at half the sites assessed.

“This is good to see as the species is at risk due to habitat loss and increasing salinity in some South-West systems,’’ Mr Heald said.

“The conservation status of the mussel was recently listed as vulnerable due to the reduction in range.”

Exotic species were also found at many sites in the region, with goldfish present at two thirds of assessed sites and yabbies at half the sites.

These exotic species directly compete with native animals for food and habitat and should not be released into the natural environment.

Assessments record the ecological condition of freshwater systems including the type and abundance of fish, crayfish and microinvertebrates, water quality and condition and the health of the aquatic habitat and riparian vegetation.

The study was carried out by scientists from the department with help from Peel-Harvey Catchment Council and will be used to support the Regional Estuaries Initiative in the Peel Harvey Catchment.

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