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Breaking Barriers in Barrington and Gloucester Rivers

AUSTRALIA - Native fish including the important Australian bass now have improved access to over 300 kilometres of upstream habitat thanks to changes to two causeways in the Gloucester region, according to New South Wales Department of Primary Industries (DPI) Conservation Manager Dr Matthew Gordos.

"In a collaborative effort between the NSW Department of Primary Industries, Gloucester Shire Council and Streamline River Restoration fish migration has been improved at Rocky Crossing on the Barrington River and Higgins Crossing on the Gloucester River," Dr Gordos said.

"The project involved the insertion of rock-ramp fishways at the two priority causeway barriers."

Funding for the project was provided by the Australian Government’s Natural Heritage Trust and the Hunter Central Rivers Catchment Management Authority (CMA) through the "Breaking Down the Barriers" program. Additional funding was also provided by Gloucester Shire Council and the NSW Recreational Fishing Trust.

"For decades, Rocky and Higgins crossings blocked access of migrating fish to upstream habitat due to the excessive drop on the downstream side of the causeways," Dr Gordos said.

"Unlike trout and salmon, native fish such as Australian bass struggle to jump over even small barriers."

Dr Gordos said rather than requiring fish to make a single massive leap, rock-ramp fishways attempt to mimic natural stream conditions by providing a series of pools that allow fish to gradually swim up and over the old barrier.

"Native fish rely on a variety of habitat types to complete their life cycle and need to migrate along rivers and streams and between estuaries," he said.

"More than two-thirds of coastal fish species including Australian bass, freshwater mullet, and short-finned eels are known to undertake large-scale migrations associated with breeding and feeding."

Dr Gordos said due to the large amount of quality habitat upstream of the two causeways, both sites were considered top priorities for improving fish passage.

"Moreover, the upgraded causeways build upon the successes gained at three previous causeways on the Gloucester River where additional fishways have been constructed by Council.

"NSW DPI and the Hunter Central Rivers CMA have made a commitment to address priority barriers such as weirs, road crossings, and floodgates by incorporating fish-friendly designs that help promote the upstream migration of our native fishing stocks," he said.

Ellen Hardy

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