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Tilapia Nuisance Eliminated from Queensland Lake

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AUSTRALIA - Dams treated with the fish poison rotenone on two Bullyard properties near Bundaberg have destroyed more than 5,500 tilapia.

Minister for Primary Industries, Fisheries and Rural and Regional Queensland, Tim Mulherin, said the number of tilapia – a noxious, destructive fish – collected on the two properties was staggering, according to BYM Marine Environment News.

"The tilapia at Bullyard were first reported to Queensland Primary Industries and Fisheries (QPIF) in March 2009," Mr Mulherin said.

"We knew from initial surveys of the dams there were significant numbers of tilapia present, but couldn't anticipate there would be this many. It seems these dams have been stocked with tilapia and the fish allowed to breed and grow. Tilapia is an aggressive species, competing with native fish for food and space, capable of taking over artificial waterways and causing havoc in creeks and rivers.

"They're also prolific breeders, able to carry 2000 eggs at a time in their mouth, which protects the fingerlings from predators. These fish are built for survival, for taking over waterways and they will destroy native species."

Mr Mulherin said when the tilapia were identified on the Bullyard properties, eradication was the only option.

"You can imagine the damage they could have caused had they had been left to breed and potentially enter the surrounding waterways during the wet season," he said.

"The Bullyard operation targeted tilapia and aimed to prevent these noxious fish establishing into new catchments. Over the next few months Queensland Primary Industries and Fisheries officers will monitor the dams to confirm if the eradication program has been successful. If no tilapia is detected, the dams will be stocked with Australian Bass to provide a predatory back up control method of treatment."

BYM Marine Environment News reports that the Minister said QPIF has conducted many pest fish eradications over the past twenty years.

"The vast majority of our eradication programs were small-scale operations, restricted to isolated artificial water bodies such as small farm dams and ornamental ponds. However, about 10 years ago, we treated a dam in Port Douglas and collected 12 tonnes of tilapia that had grown from just five fish in 18 months.

"For obvious reasons these fish are listed in the top 100 of the world's worst introduced species and are regarded as the greatest threat to Australia's native freshwater biodiversity.

"Tilapia can adapt to a range of habitats including degraded waterways and they have the potential to spread disease to native fish.

"Since 2004, QPIF has been involved in five pest fish eradications, including two of Australia's largest operations, at Eureka Creek in north Queensland and at the Bullyard. Sadly, most tilapia infestations are caused by people moving the fish between waterways, which is an illegal practice."

Mr Mulherin said the local Bundaberg community could play an important role in helping to eradicate tilapia.

"If someone catches a tilapia they must kill the fish humanely and dispose of it away from the water," he said.

"We also want to hear from anyone who sees tilapia in local waterways, or even suspects someone of moving or selling tilapia, which is the main way they spread."

To report tilapia, contact the Fishwatch Hotline on 1800 017 116.

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