The Benefits of Community and Stakeholder Driven Fish Monitoring Projects in a Murray-Darling Basin River

Kerezy, A. (2020)


River and catchment management in Australia’s Murray-Darling Basin underwent a transformation in the latter part of the twentieth century, from being focused on delivering water predominantly for human and agricultural needs to also considering environmental considerations. The main driver of this change was the realisation that a comparatively long period of river regulation and associated alterations to natural systems had resulted in negative consequences. Native fish communities, in particular, have been considered to be in a poor or degraded condition. The centrally located Lachlan River, in New South Wales (NSW), is a poignant example, as the fish community has been rated as ‘extremely poor’ in both of the basin-scale Sustainable Rivers Audit reports in 2008 and 2012. River management can generally be regarded as a top-down process, with the Murray-Darling Basin Authority and state-based agencies simultaneously relied on and looked to for advice, but also blamed for any perceived problems and inequities. However, neither the federal nor state governments and their agencies have the capacity to undertake accurate monitoring of individual catchments at localised scales. In order to achieve this, local communities and stakeholders can make a difference to the management of their catchments by actively sponsoring and participating in sampling and monitoring projects that can then inform broader catchment management. This process has begun with positive results within the Lachlan catchment, and offers a representative case study that can be applied to other areas within the Murray-Darling Basin. Keywords: Lachlan River, off-river areas, Lake Cargelligo, Booberoi Creek, community involvement, fish surveys, endangered species.