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Tilapia Terror. Infestation Suspected in Endeavour River

QUEENSLAND - Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries (DPI&F) officers are investigating reports of a possible infestation of tilapia in the Endeavour River near Cooktown.

DPI&F fisheries biologist Wade Micke said if there were tilapia in the Endeavour River it was because they had been illegally released by members of the public. The Endeavour River and surrounding area was surveyed for pest fish two years ago, and no tilapia were found.

Pest with penalties. Releasing Tilapia into Queensland's water ways carries hefty fines.

"As yet, we have not yet been able confirm tilapia in this area, but preliminary information suggests that a small population may be present. This is in an isolated area which does not adjoin any waterways currently affected by tilapia, so the only way pest fish could have been introduced into this area is by people deliberately bringing them in,' said Mr Micke.

This incident is particularly frustrating for DPI&F, as it has been running an extensive campaign over the past 12 months to educate the community about the threat posed by pest fish.

"Tilapia is a declared noxious fish species in this state. These fish do not belong here and there are heavy fines of up to $150,000 for possessing them," explained Mr Micke. "If the spread of the fish isn't controlled, tilapia could significantly impact on our commercial and recreational fisheries."

Tilapia are quick to breed and will rapidly colonise and dominate waterways. This forces out local fish populations and also brings a threat of introducing diseases and parasites.

Mr Micke said most tilapia infestations were caused by people moving fish between waterways, and once established in a waterway they were almost impossible to eradicate.

Utmost importance

"I cannot overstate how important it is for people not to move tilapia and that they are disposed of away from the water. Female fish may carry eggs in their mouth, and these eggs can survive long after the adult fish is dead," he added.

DPI&F, in conjunction with the South Cape York Catchment Group, will carry out an intensive in-field surveillance program during the next few weeks. If the presence of tilapia is confirmed, an eradication will be put in place although the options are limited.

"Because this is a flowing waterway, our main focus will be concentrated on controlling the species to try to stop it from spreading further," said Mr Micke.

Under Section 89 of the Fisheries Act 1994 a person in possession of noxious fisheries resources or release of noxious fisheries resources into Queensland waters can be fined up to AUS$150,000.

The public is being asked to cop operate with Queensland DPI&F and report anyone suspected of moving tilapia, or any sightings of this species to the Fishwatch Hotline, Tel. 1800 017 116 or the DPI&F Tel. 13 25 23. Alternatively a Pest Fish Report Form, can be submitted via the internet/email.

 

Ellen Hardy

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