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The Fight Against Tilapia Steps Up

QUEENSLAND, AUSTRALIA - Steps to control the pest fish tilapia have been taken to a new level with Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries (DPI&F) officers successfully eradicating the species from a key Gulf region waterway.

DPI&F senior fisheries biologist Malcolm Pearce said the exercise carried out in a section of Eureka Creek was a first for Queensland.

"While we have used fish poison in closed waterways to remove this species, we have never before dammed a flowing waterway and treated a section of the system," Mr Pearce said.

"The exercise was a great success with preliminary reports indicating that dozens of tilapia were killed as a result.

"A single pair of adult tilapia can produce more than 1000 offspring in just a 12-month period"
DPI&F senior fisheries biologist Malcolm Pearce

"If this action had not been taken, tilapia could have infested the entire Mitchell River catchment and the greater Gulf of Carpentaria.

"An infestation of this extent would have had a grave impact on recreational and commercial fishing in the Gulf as tilapia would decimate the native fish population."

Mr Pearce said tilapia were considered one of the world´s worst 100 introduced species and have also been dubbed the ´cane toad of the waterways´.

"A single pair of adult tilapia can produce more than 1000 offspring in just a 12-month period," Mr Pearce said.

After damming a section of the creek, officers treated the area with the fish poison Rotenone.

"Rotenone is an environmentally approved control method that is commonly used in farming in Queensland.

"It dissipates within 12 hours and is only harmful to species that breathe through their gills such as fish.

"To ensure the large native fish in the area were not harmed they were removed from the area using electro-fishing methods before the poison was applied."

DPI&F will continue to conduct surveillance in the area to evaluate the overall success of the exercise.

Under Section 89 of the Fisheries Act 1994, a person must not possess pest fish such as tilapia. The maximum penalty is $150,000.