TCC and NQ Water working with stakeholders along the Ross River to develop and implement a Recreational Fish Enhancement Plan
Ross River Recreational Fishing Enhancement Plan (RRRFEP)
The plan is to enhance recreational fishing on the Ross River system and to promote sustainable recreational fishing and sport-fishing as part of the Townsville lifestyle
The dynamic plan will include investigation and management of recreational fishing access and locations; ecology of sport fish and river health; environmental interpretation; and benefits of fish stocking and options
This plan complements the Ross River Management Planning Process (link soon) currently underway in partnership with Townsville City Council and NQ Water
Background on Fish Watch Committee and Research Priorities
The Townsville City Council Fishwatch Advisory Committee has been set up as a network for local fishers and community interests to discuss recreational fishing and environmental conservation of fish stocks in the Townsville area. The network consists of members from a wide range of community groups, organisations and government.
The objectives of the Fishwatch committee are to integrate scientific research and local recreational fishing as well as provide an ongoing network for discussion and implementation of local recreation and environmental initiatives.
NQ Water has accepted the offer for the Fish Watch advisory committee to manage funding worth $15,000 (per year for 2002-03 & 2003-04) as part initial funding for the Ross River Recreational Fishing Enhancement Plan (RRRFEP).
Consultation with Stakeholder groups and Agencies in regards to both the Recreation Fishing Enhancement Plan and overarching Ross River Management Plan includes:
Proposed Public Consultation and Awareness Raising Activities
Fish Stocking (background)
In recent years the Twin Cities Fish Stocking Society have introduced in excess of 100,000 barramundi fingerlings into the freshwater reaches of the Ross River
The Twin Cities Fishstocking Society Inc. submitted the proposal for capital expenditure of the $5000 NQ Water funding allocated to fish stocking. In summary, DPI&F permits allow barramundi to be released into Black Weir, Aplin’s Weir and Gleeson’s Weir. The recommended size for release is 70mm, with 10,000 fingerlings costing $7,000. The timing of release of the fingerlings will depend on summer weather patterns and availability of fish.
As stipulated in the Envirofund application, The Ross River has been regularly stocked for the last ten years with barramundi (Lates calcarifer) and more recently mangrove jack (Lutjanus agentimaculatus) and as a result has become a very productive fishery with a large biomass of large sportsfish. In the absence of 'normal' riverine conditions allowing fish movement for breeding and other life cycle functions it is difficult to determine the effects of fish stocking on the overall ecology and aquatic habitat of the Ross River
Without the installation of expensive fish ladders the most practical way to maintain the fishery in the Ross River for the future is to continue the stocking program. In order to do this a better understanding (scientific knowledge) is required before future stocking activities are undertaken.
Ecological Research (background)
Consequently, $10,000 has been allocated per year (initially) to ecological research in the Ross Creek system and $3000 (per year) to the Ross Creek/Lakes system.
Utilising scientific expertise from nearby James Cook University the projects will gather the required information to gain an understanding of the ecological dynamics of the artificial wetlands of the Ross River to enable management requirements to be defined.
The project will also gather information on water quality and habitat condition to assist in identifying antecedent conditions associated with the major issue of fish kills. The information will be used for developing management options to assist in the prevention of such events in the future through maintenance of water quality.
The aims of the ecological study conducted by Ann Penny in relation to Ross River are:
Benefits ecological studies will provide include:
· Provision of baseline information to assist in the management of the Ross River aquatic habitat.
· Community capacity building through interaction with technical experts including workshops and involvement in monitoring activities (links with current Creekwatch activities).
· Provision of information to inform the activities of the community based fish stocking group.
· Movement towards the establishment of a sustainable industry based on appropriate management of natural resources.
· Information to assist with establishment of natural resource targets for the Burdekin Dry Tropics NRM region.
· Increased awareness of the management requirements for artificial freshwater wetlands in the Dry Tropics.
· Promotion of Fishwatch and other community based aquatic monitoring programs.
· Potential to translate findings to other stocked impoundments.
· Encouragement of combined ecotourism activities and natural resource management
Concern over poor access to the Ross Weir system by local anglers raises the issue of whether funds should be spent on improving access. This issue needs to be highlighted in the community consultation phase for feedback regarding whether low usage rates are a consequence of lack of access or other as yet unknown factors. The construction of environmentally friendly timber platforms has been suggested as a way of improving access to the three Weirs.
The access and ‘Fishability’ of the weirs will also be improved through the implementation of the aquatic weed removal program currently addressed by NQ Water and utilising the aquatic weed harvester.
A Commonwealth NHT (Natural Heritage Trust) Envirofund application was submitted for consideration. This application included consideration of interpretation of aquatics; ecology; and river health of Ross River and the Lakes-Ross Creek catchment, and developing community awareness of river ecology, fish kills and recreational fishing.
In addition funding has been allocated under Ross River Parkway for environmental interpretation along the river (See soon - Gleesons Weir).
Several issues arise as a consequence of improved recreational fishing on the Ross River system. It is recommended that these be dealt with as part of the Recreational Fishing Enhancement Plan Ross River Waterway Management Strategy and Plan. The following strategies for management and consideration are:
1. Water quality
4. Powered Watercraft
6. Fish surveys
7. Commercial Fishing and Tourism
8. Minimum Water Storage Levels
9. Education and Awareness