Author Archives: Brendan Ebner

Tim Marsden article Qld NOv 2015

State comparison from ASFB attendee

27 October 2015

Hi Brendan,

it was great to catch up with you and the many other passionate fisho’s at the ASFB conference. The opportunity to see what work is being conducted in fisheries science and fisheries in general is a valuable contribution to the knowledge gathering we all conduct throughout our careers. I was particularly interested in seeing the great investments that were being made in freshwater habitat rehabilitation and fish passage in NSW and Victoria. Flowing from these investments were a number of fantastic research programs that are really progressing freshwater fisheries science in Australia.

Unfortunately this only went on to highlight the parlous state of fish habitat improvement and fisheries science in Queensland. No offense to the few people who are doing good stuff in fisheries like James Donaldson, Michael Hutchison and yourself, but the complete lack of investment in freshwater fisheries (other than stocking) is criminal. Our fisheries continue to decline as their habitats get filled with sediment, covered in weeds or blocked by dams and very little is done about it. Sure there are some programs that have side benefits for fish (reef plan, WQIP’s, ROP’s) and there is the best fish passage legislation in the country in place, but mostly it is non-existent.

The institution of the angling licenses in NSW and Vic have greatly increased the funding to, and just as importantly the FOCUS on, fisheries, both by the community and government and is leading to much of the great work that is happening down there at present. I feel like we live in a backward hick redneck state where the majority whinge about how bad things are getting, but also don’t want the government to get their money. These people need to be shown the possibilities that exist with a sensible licence, administered for the benefit of the fisheries, that engages the community and helps them improve their fisheries. It’s about time they realised this is not the Queensland of the 60’s with endless schools of fish in pristine catchments and inshore reefs. THOSE DAYS ARE GONE QUEENSLAND, wake up and get on board because no one else is going to pay for it!!! When you make your contribution, then you will gain the power to force governments to care!

So interestingly for me it was not one great project (although there were plenty) that stirred me up at ASFB, it was the big picture that emerged from the funding of fisheries throughout Australia, with the license “haves” fairing much better than the “have nots”. It seems pretty obvious that if you get several hundred thousand people paying money directly to the government, it hones the governments focus on fisheries greatly, giving them at least some care factor!! The changes that this makes can be quite significant.


Tim Marsden Australasian Fish Passage Services 27 Beachside Place, Shoal Point QLD 4750

P: +617 4954 8636

M: +61419 724 462 E: [email protected]



Editor’s note: Thanks for your considered opinion Tim. I have to agree with you Queensland could be bolstered for fish and fisheries regional staffing in a number of places. I am happy to apply for a job if you can find me one



Frothing up

26 Oct 2015-10-26

Letter to the Editor,

It was another great year at ASFB. So many talks to get to and so little time. I missed  a lot of the social activities this year on account of a FIFO approach this year (that’s fly in fly out for those not familiar with the Qld mining boom scourge). My highlights were as always, catching up with fishos from far flung corners of the country, but this year particularly enjoyed the ASFB Award and keynote talks, and the abalone seas ranching preso (what?? I know for a full on freshy this was interesting).  Another surprise was Matt Hansen’s talk about the awesome work the Inland Waters Rejuvenation Assoc. have been doing to turn community attitudes from traditional put and take fish stocking activities, to also focus on addressing habitat issues and to think more broadly about how to protect and maintain their treasured fisheries. The Bogan signage was an absolute classic?

I recall Ebb’s question at the AGM to think about ideas for improving on the ASFB experience. As a relative newcomer to conferencing and having never actually assisted in organising any part of one, I tentatively offer a few thoughts (in fear of someone agreeing and suggesting I assist to coordinate an upcoming conference). Firstly I really enjoyed the 30-45 min keynote type talks this year (including ASFB award talks). For the first time I heard many people in the audience refer back to these keynotes/award talks when asking or answering questions, so I assumed these talks resonated with a lot of other people as well. I think this format of 30 min keynotes delivered at the start of either full day or half day themed sessions might be an idea worth toying with. I’m not sure how difficult it is to get keynote speakers but maybe a middle ground of 30 min might make this task easier. This format would give some of the more experienced researchers, or those with new insights or maybe complex issues that struggle to fit into the 12 min format, a platform to present sentinel work or pose a range of thought provoking ideas about a particular issue. These “theme keynotes” would then spearhead the follow up talks under that theme. Maybe an idea to secure these short keynotes could be to offer these spots to presenters also willing to convene/organise the themes for either a full or half day section of the program.

I like the photo comp idea as well. There didn’t seem to be the same number of entries as last years inaugural comp, but I think the idea is worth sticking with. Another idea I had while walking amongst posters and sponsor stands was the idea of having some live fish displays. I appreciate this might be a bit of a nightmare for conference organisers and venues, but what a great opportunity to showcase some of the unique/unusual species from the region the conference is being held in. This could also present a great opportunity to engage with community groups like ANGFA or the local recreation groups to assist in setting up a live display with the trade-off possibly a conference ticket for a member of their organisation to attend the presentations. What a great opportunity for getting some of the science back into the community and for the boffins to see some of the species they might never get a chance to see otherwise.

One final observation, I think it is absolutely imperative that any conference organising committee undertake a reconnaissance trip to the venues being proposed for social activities. I have never in my life seen such a woeful display of beer pouring than that experienced on the Monday night. Hot plastic jugs, and tap beer poured from a lofted height just makes a Queensland beer lover’s heart sink into a dark, dark place. I haven’t seen bigger heads of froth since the 2012 Qld Liberals party room on election night.  We all know how that debacle ended up. Absolutely no hard feelings toward the conference organisers, some things are just out of our control. Can’t wait for Hobart, 2016.

David Roberts

Editor’s response: You certainly raise at least one important point David.

Post Box

Freo debutant perspective on ASFB

21 October 2015

Dear editor,

Re: ASFB Conference 2015

I recently had the privilege of presenting the findings from my Honours research at my first ever ASFB Conference, the joint 2015 ASFB Annual Conference and 5th ISSESR in Sydney Australia, and also at the ASFB Threatened Species Committee workshop prior to the conference. These provided great opportunities for me to discuss my findings and spread awareness of the plight of my model species, and also allowed me great opportunities for networking and meeting experts in their respective fields. The Threatened Species Committee were extremely welcoming (especially considering I’m a Freo supporter – I even got an ASFB hat!), and the whole society put on an amazing conference, including a great dinner cruise to close off the conference. I hope I can get to many more in the future and contribute to the society for years to come!


Garry Ogston

Murdoch University, WA

DanswellLetterOct 2015Filled

Coming down from a high: ASFB 2015

Dear Editor,

That was my 6th ASFB conference. Thanks to my boss for letting me off the hook to go and chat fish, while the annual report is looming. Seeing old, but familiar faces was refreshing, and so many discussions with a face full of food or sitting in a darkened room staring up at a powerpoint presentation get the mental juices flowing.

There were many great talks, but hear are my stand outs. John Morrongiello leading the pack. Joel Williams showed us how much can be learnt from a good study design. Up-and-comer Luke McPhan showed us some cool work he has done with larval Murray cod.

Looking back, I see a common theme: I like recruitment stuff. And I like otoliths. No surprises there.

Thanks to all for the inspiration in Sydney. Maybe I’ll present a paper about interactions and confounding factors that drive recruitment? The annual report will have to wait, again. Can’t wait to get high in Hobart.


20 Oct 2015

21 Oct 2015; Editor’s response: I agree Morrongiello nailed it.

Haul of Murray Hardyhead

Cross‐border cooperation to streamline recovery actions for the endangered Murray hardyhead (Craterocephalus fluviatilis) in the southern Murray‐Darling Basin

By Lara Suitor (Department of Environment Water and Natural Resources SA)

and Iain Ellis (Murray Darling Freshwater Research Centre / Fisheries NSW, Department of Primary Industries)


The Murray Hardyhead (Cratercephalus fluviatilis) (McCulloch 1913) is a small freshwater fish endemic to the Murray Darling Basin. Due to numerous threats the Murray hardyhead have suffered a decline in distribution on both a state and basin wide scale (Ebner et al. 2003; Hammer et al. 2009; Ellis et al. 2013). Murray hardyhead have not been recorded in New South Wales for the last decade and may be extinct in the state (Ellis et al. 2013). Currently there are eight known sites within South Australia and Victoria where viable populations of Murray hardyhead exist (Ellis et al. 2013). The species in considered to be of conservation significance. It is listed as Endangered under the EPBC Act and Endangered under the International Union for the Conservation of Nature Red List, threatened under the Victorian Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act, and critically endangered in South Australia (Ellis et al. 2013).

Lara and Listy dragging

Disher Creek and Berri Evaporation Basin form part of Murray River wetland systems used for saline water disposal near Berri, in the Riverland region of South Australia (Suitor 2009; Suitor 2012). Sampling efforts of Murray hardyhead at these sites has seen a steady continuous increase in relative abundance since the millennium drought (Suitor 2014; Wegener et al. 2015). Monitoring of both Riverland populations of Murray hardyhead in February 2015 identified strong abundances, which are likely to reflect a positive response to on ground habitat conservation efforts by the Department of Environment Water and Natural Resources, using water supplied by the Commonwealth Environmental Water Office.

This promising monitoring result presented an ideal opportunity for collection of a sub-population of Murray hardyhead from these sites to relocate into an appropriately prepared wetland in Victoria. This interstate translocation was implemented as an action under the National Murray hardyhead recovery Plan (Stoessel et al. 2014)

To the best of our knowledge this is the first official interstate translocation of threatened fish between South Australia and Victoria.  The Murray hardyhead Recovery Team, is at the centre of a well-established collaborative network formed during a decade of conservation programs which enabled this cross-border translocation process to be completed in a matter of weeks.

Project Collaborators

Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water & Planning (DELWP Regional Services and the Arthur Rylah Institute), South Australian Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources (DEWNR), Mallee Catchment Management Authority (MCMA), Commonwealth Environmental Water Office (CEWO), Parks VictoriaVictorian Environmental Water Holder


Ebner, B., Raadik, T., and Ivantsoff, W. (2003). Threatened fishes of the world: Craterocephalus fluviatilis McCulloch, 1913 (Atherinidae). Environmental Biology of Fishes 68, 390.

Ellis, I., Stoessel, D., Hammer, M., Wedderburn, S., Suitor, L. and Hall, A. (2013). Conservation of an inauspicious endangered freshwater fish, Murray hardyhead (Craterocephalus fluviatilis), during drought and competing water demands in the Murray–Darling Basin, Australia Marine and Freshwater Research 64, 792 – 806

Hammer M, Wedderburn S, van Weenan J (2009). ‘Action Plan for South Australian Freshwater Fishes.’ Native Fish Australia (SA) Inc., Adelaide.

Stoessel, D., Ellis, I., Riederer, M. and Keleher, A. (2014). Revised National Recovery Plan for the Murray hardyhead Craterocephalus fluviatilus. Department of Environment and Primary Industries, Melbourne.

Suitor, L.R.K. (2014). Murray hardyhead Craterocephalus fluviatilis (McCulloch) Habitat and Population Progress Report 2012-2014, Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources, Berri, South Australia.

Suitor, L.R.K. (2012). Berri Saline Water Disposal Basin Murray hardyhead Craterocephalus fluviatilis (McCulloch) Habitat Management Plan.

Suitor, L. (2009). Disher Creek Saline Water Disposal Basin Hydrological Management Plan. Department for Environment and Heritage: Berri, SA.

Wegener, I.K., Hoffmann, E.P., Turner, R.J., Suitor, L.R.K., Oerman, G., Mason, K., Nickolai, C. N., Kieskamp, H. (2015). Natural Resources SA Murray-Darling Basin Wetland and Floodplain Program – Environmental Watering Review 2015, Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources, Adelaide.

Further Reading


Read about the 2014 review of the status of Murray hardyhead

Dave Roberts

A few more sleeps until ASFB

Compiled by Ebb, with backing vocals from: Gary Ogston, Jonas Bylemans, Allswell, Sausage Broadhurst, Sneaky Suitor, Listy Ellis, Dave Cough-a-Lungfish Roberts, The Kosternaut, and special guest T. Clark.

Well it’s just about that time again, and a bunch of us will be milling around endless powerpoint presentations, drinking excessive amounts of coffee in hallways and chatting over the occasional ale.

With the pending absence of a few of my personal favourite characters from the scene this year, I am reminded of just how damn lucky some of us are to be attending. I don’t have a job beyond December but I have a boss who forks up the cash to get me to this shin dig to network and absorb science. Around the traps I hear plenty of organisations that won’t support their staff getting to ASFB, and that is truly a shame.

Anyways, I just want to plug a few talks that will be on show, including a few by the up and comers and some by old school Lair faithful. I guess my sermon is basically show-up to those you know, sure, I get it, but really try and get to those you don’t, the young slash newbie crew. Regarding the new, Gary Ogston has recently completed Honours on Salamanderfish. When I contacted him a short time ago and introduced myself and the Lair, he sent back a Species Spotlight the following day (check it out). I reckon that deserves a beer and probably one or two from Lara Suitor, since she finally got me one after last’ year’s promise in Darwin.


Beware of the Salamanderfish says Gary Ogston

Another relative new comer is Jonas Bylemans. Although many fish biologists might frown at the idea of genetic presentations at the ASFB conference, environmental DNA (eDNA) based detection of fish species is revolutionizing fisheries management. Jonas was adamant that with eDNA based surveys the distribution of fish species can be determined more accurately. And Jonas contends, ‘This increased knowledge has the potential to dramatically improve on-ground management actions’. During his presentation “Combining traditional and environmental DNA based monitoring to improve the management of native and invasive fish species” Jonas will explain how the magical world of eDNA works and how it can be used to assist with on-ground species management. Make sure you introduce yourself to the University of Canberra’s latest successor.


Jonas refusing to use a net (old technology)

Speaking of Canberra, and perhaps not surprisingly, Assistant editor at the Lair, Danswell Starrs will be persisting with his interest in otoliths. He is going to give us a glimpse into the future in terms of possibilities with CT scanning ear bits to reveal a fish’s darkest inner (ear) secrets? Allswell tells of ‘Current practises to extract the information stored in fish otoliths involve sectioning the otolith with a diamond-bladed saw to reveal the inner growth increments’. He reminded me that this is a painstaking process that is slow, laborious and hence, costly. So apparently, his presentation will be a walk through a trial application of Computed X-ray Tomography (Micro CT) to reveal the inner structure of fish otoliths without the need for sectioning.

CT Scan Allswell

Caption. Snapper otolith image captured using a Bruker skyscan 1174 MicroCT scanner. Want to know what’s inside this otolith? Catch Allswell in action.

Apparently there will be a special session on threatened fishes facilitated by stalwart Mark Lintermans. And there is to be the occasional talk about Murray-Darling fishes this year according to NSW Fisheries juggernaut, Craig Boys.

Wayne Koster, will be speaking about movement and habitat use of Australian grayling. The study led by Kosternaut made use of radio- and acoustic telemetry to investigate the day-to-day activity, habitat use, and spawning season movement behaviours of the nationally threatened Australian grayling in the Tarago-Bunyip River system. The results showed that Australian grayling were often located within glide habitats, but also used a range of other mesohabitats (pool, riffle and run), and moved over larger ranges at night. When pushed on what is special about this study Wayne said ‘It also demonstrated synchronised migratory behaviour to specific locations during the spawning season, including movement responses to targeted environmental flows’. ‘This information has the potential to improve our capacity to provide the conditions required to conserve and restore Australian grayling populations’. Koster will be quietly spoken and professional as usual. He is without doubt, one of Australia’s real threatened fish telemetry specialists to emerge from the ARI stable in past decades.

Photo_David_Dawson of Grayling 

Grayling Photo: David Dawson

Ben Broadhurst is always an entertaining speaker, especially when given a tight timeline. Yep finishing the introductory slide at the 8 minute mark is a sure sign of a man on a mission to wrap it up in a hurry. And it wouldn’t be an ASFB conference without a deer in the headlights and a Cotter Reservoir Macquarie perch presentation. 2015 will be no exception (insert sigh of relief). Ben told me ‘An enlarged Cotter Reservoir is filling, and the resident population of endangered Macquarie perch are loving it, with abundant adults as fat as mud dining on newly available terrestrial prey items (mostly juicy earthworms!!). With increased body condition should come increased fecundity and recruitment right? Well so far monitoring indicates that this hasn’t been the case.’

To find out why (well possibly why, we are fish biologists and the more we learn the less we know) head along to Sausage Broadhurst’s presentation entitled “Early response of Macquarie perch to enlargement of an upland reservoir” in the Fish Biology, Ecology and Management session, 11:15 on Monday morning. It will be the only talk with a Barry White reference (except for potentially Barry Bruce’s presentation on White sharks).

Andrew Berghuis Macca fish passage

One of two “Hands on” fish passage enhancements the team constructed to help get Macquarie perch to suitable spawning habitat in the Cotter River upstream of Cotter Reservoir (Photo: Andrew Berghuis)

Dave Roberts is a dual medallist with regular contributions at ASFB and the Lair; and this year will see him reporting on work conducted with the likes of Doug Harding, Tess Mullins, Kris Pitman, Ross Dwyer and the prodigious Mark Kennard.

Dave Roberst Crew

The crew at work in South East Queensland

This project has had it all, National television coverage (albeit targeted to a sub-teen demographic), unexplained electronic gadgets turning up in seafood processing plants, a qualified horse veterinarian, floods, broken fishway. But Dave tells me ‘the most memorable of all was the awesome field trips with a great bunch of researchers and new insights into catadromous fish migration’. Dave elaborated ‘The Logan River system is not a unique Australian river by any stretch, with several fish migration barriers and a Water Resource Plan that dictates water use’. ‘The system does have some hope though, with 4 of the 5 major barriers have the latest fishway designs, and while the system is heavily allocated, water abstraction is low being reserved for future urban demand’. ‘We set about understanding the flow migration needs of three catadromous species and discovered that despite the assumption fishways provided effective passage for migrating fish, some preferred to leap off a cliff then use the fishway to get to the sea’. Which just goes to show, you can get Dave talking – if only you ask the right questions.

A big appearance in the Energetics session will be the exuberant Tim Clark. I asked him why is research is important and got a pretty hardcore science response. ‘Appropriately balancing energy acquisition and energy expenditure is fundamental to the fitness of all animals including fishes. By pairing robust lab-based experiments with novel electronic tagging technologies, scientists may gain an unprecedented understanding of the energetics of wild fishes and pave the way for deciphering the impacts of short- and long-term environmental challenges’. Well nice to meet you Tim. I reckon those who really like there science should get to Tim’s Keynote. Then I thought, no this is simply not good enough. We need to know more about this guy. So I peppered him for some more information about what he is going to discuss next week:

photo Tim Clark

Tim Clark (Photo courtesy of African Safari Magazine)

Ebb, I’m trying to get a Linkage grant together by Friday so sorry if this is a complete information dump, but here’s some stuff you can reshape as necessary…depending on how controversial you want to be!:

[Editor’s note: no edits required this is the human-science nectar the Moray suckles.....]

I got into science for the cheesiest of reasons – I always had a love of animals.  I used to collect spiders, watch pet tadpoles morph into frogs, spend hours watching my pet birds build nests in my aviary, the list goes on.  At that stage, I had aspirations of being a park ranger because I had no idea about the possibilities that existed in scientific research.  I stumbled my way into university and was contently “average” for the first 1.5 years of undergrad.  The defining moment for me was when friends of the family seemed over-the-top excited and congratulatory when I told them I passed the first semester of second-year undergrad with around a C-grade average.  I guess they were expecting me to fail.  They were incredibly polite people, but I couldn’t help to sense some mockery.  That was the spark I needed; I pulled my finger out and battled through the final 1.5 years of undergrad with nothing but A-grades.

My interest in physiology was initiated by Dr Peter Frappell, with whom I ended up doing my Honours and PhD projects.  The thing that attracted me to physiology was that it was conceptual and often over-arching across animal taxa; for example, the concepts behind haemoglobin-oxygen binding and cardiovascular function were applicable across nearly all vertebrates.  On the other hand, my initial training in ecology generally seemed to be context-specific and I struggled to grasp how I could transfer the skills to other species and systems.  Since those days, I have recognised the power of combining physiology with ecology to more comprehensive address research questions.

I’ve realised over time that science suits my personality.  I’m very particular, inquisitive, and I like to do things properly and comprehensively (much to the frustration of my students and colleagues!).  I naively thought that science was exclusively made up of similar personality types, but that proved to be a very inaccurate assumption.  Consequently, I’ve become very passionate about morals and ethics in science, as I believe that the public perception of scientists is continually being tainted by the publication of poor research.  For example, a recent analysis in the biomedical field alone estimated that over $50 billion per year is spent on research that ultimately proves to be irreproducible (i.e., independent researchers cannot achieve the same findings).  There are some big steps that have to be taken to improve the way science is conducted and reviewed, and to more smartly distribute research funding, but I hope to help facilitate these steps in the coming years!

When I sent out a scattered plea for a blurb about a presentation by a South Australian researcher, Lara Suitor responded with excessive vigour. Lara is a regular at ASFB and a good chat. She has teamed up with crowd favourite Listy Ellis to tell a heart warming story about one of our most imperilled Australian fishes. This cross border protection of a species in exile is one not to miss and Lara and Listy have posted a more comprehensive teaser as the recent Species Spotlight on The Lair. Knock ‘em dead Lara.

Lara and Listy dragging

Lara and Listy dragging for hardyheads

Well, time to pack your best frock or shirt (and I realise this creates indecision for you Listy) for the Thursday evening. Don’t forget the toothbrush, flashstick, and maybe a panadol just in case. Look forward to listening to you all, and maybe saying the odd word myself. We all know there ain’t any money about, but for this next week at least, fish science can be in a happy place.

Garry Ogston

Garry Ogston

Garry Ogston has completed his Bachelor of Science with First Class Honours and currently works as an Environmental Advisor (Zoologist) within the Perth metropolitan area and in the Pilbara. For his achievements during his undergraduate degree, Garry was presented with the Student Medal by the Royal Society of Western Australia. His interest in freshwater management and ecology was peaked during his degree when performing tasks such as testing for pollutants entering the Canning River through drainage systems. Following on from his Honours research Garry is now hoping to pursue a PhD focusing on using environmental flows to buffer the impacts of climate change on freshwater fishes of south-western Australia.

Cover Salamander

An Honour to work on Salamanderfish, Lepidogalaxias salamandroides

By Garry Ogston

I approached the task of finding an Honours research topic and potential supervisors with trepidation; however, upon setting foot in the office of the Freshwater Fish Group, all nerves and fears were put aside. My supervisors for the research project, Dr Stephen Beatty, Dr David Morgan, and Dr Brad Pusey were everything one could hope for, supportive, informative, and always approached tasks with a good sense of humour. It also helps that two out of three were Freo supporters like myself.

Picture2 Garry seining

Me sampling for salamanderfish in a roadside pool south of Northcliffe Western Australia (Photo: Stephanie Mugliston)

My Honours research aimed to determine how climate change has impacted on the aestivating fishes of the south-west of Western Australia, and how it would continue to do so into the future. One of my model species, the salamanderfish, soon became my favourite. I will never forget the excitement of pulling up a seine net and finding a salamanderfish for the first time. The salamanderfish itself may not be the most beautiful and brightly coloured freshwater fish, but if there is anything I have learned by studying it, it is just as fascinating as any other freshwater fish out there. From surviving in ephemeral acidic wetlands (pH of 3 – more acidic than wine!), to its ability to aestivate, its unique morphology (including its bizarre neck-bending ability), and its phylogenetic placement, the mystery of this species only deepens.

Picture3 SalamanerHabitatjpg

Typical salamanderfish habitat during the wet (top) and dry (bottom) seasons – displaying the ephemeral nature of the wetland

I was soon hooked and hoped to find more salamanderfish with each successive drag of the seine net. Unfortunately this was not always the case and one pull of the seine net turned into six, before moving on to the next wetland. My results painted a rather bleak view for the outlook of the enigmatic species, with large range reductions observed, predictor variables for presence directly linked to climate, and global climate models predicting a further drying within the region. I am hopeful however, that the findings from my research will allow for better management strategies to be implemented, as it would be a real shame if this fish was not around for future generations to admire and work with, like I have had the privilege.


Three female salamanderfish in a holding bucket prior to being measured


Further Reading

Ogston, G. (2015). Implications of climate change on the aestivating Salamanderfish, Lepidogalaxias salamandroides Mees and the Black-stripe Minnow, Galaxiella nigrostriata Shipway (Honours Thesis). Murdoch University, Murdoch, Western Australia.


Editor’s note: Make sure you catch up with Garry at the upcoming ASFB conference in Sydney, despite him being a Freemantle supporter (Got your back Morgs).




Dale McNeil

Dr Dale McNeil (Picture by David Thorpe) thought he was going to be a footballer and that didn’t pan out.  Then he got keen on a girl who was doing Zoology so he enrolled too. Then he developed an acute fear of having to leave university which lead him to undertake a drawn out nine year post-graduate epic during which he ruined his liver, lost his hearing playing too much rock’n’roll and grew his hair really big.  Now, he has gotten fat, had children, cut his hair and settled down with the Murray Local Land Services in Deniliquin, NSW where he is the Strategic Planner. In between all of this he looked into fish quite a bit. He wishes he could talk all day about swamp yabbies and play banjo with people.  Maybe you do to?




Rotenone key in wiping out aquatic pest

By Dale McNeil

Picture1 Speckled Livebearer 

A Speckled livebearer Phalloceros caudimaculatus removed from Willunga creek on South Australia’s McLaren Vale.

Two separate reports of a “strange fish” captured in the heart of South Australia’s wine country led to an investigation by scientists from the SA Research and Development Institute (SARDI). Follow up surveys verified the establishment of a new aquatic pest for the State, the speckled livebearer Phalloceros caudimaculatus. SARDI scientists and managers from Biosecurity SA, the EPA and the Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges NRM Board joined forces to wipe out this new infestation.

Picture2Dale Electrofishing

Too many to zap! Early investigations revealed abundant and widespread populations of the pest throughout the creek.

After a rapid but thorough consultation process including EPA and veterinary regulators, and preliminary scientific investigations, rotenone treatment was employed along several kilometres of stream running through agricultural and urban land in the picturesque Maclaren Vale. Follow up surveys for the past four years have verified that all pest fish have been removed during initial and rapid follow up spot treatments using rotenone. Dosage rates were tailored to the highly tolerant pest fish after tolerance trials were conducted by SARDI. The treatment also removed all pest carp (Cyprinus carpio), the only other species present.

Picture3 Rotenone

Rotenone mixing and application into Phalloceros habitat in Willunga Creek. Flowing runs and riffles, pools, subterranean drainpipes, trickles, front yards, back yard fishponds, dams and reed beds were all treated to complete the eradication.

Following treatment and follow up surveys, native mountain galaxias (Galaxias olidus) from the neighbouring tributary were translocated into the reach by the Local children at Willunga Primary School. Tadpoles, yabbies, frogs and turtles were removed prior to treatment and kept in aquaria before being returned to site following treatment.


Native Galaxias olidus ready to move next door to the treated tributary thanks to the children of Willunga Primary School.

With a principal threat to native fish now removed, other restoration activities s are free to proceed with less risk of failure. As part of a consultative partnership between local community, scientists, Biosecurity and Natural Resource Managers, rotenone treatment was an efficient and effective method of meeting State and regional management targets stating that new aquatic pest species will not be allowed to establish in South Australian catchments. Rotenone is a key part of this great success story and is one of the principal tools for maintaining and restoring native fish populations and abolishing aquatic pests.



Kerezsy, A., and Fensham, R. (2013). Conservation of the endangered redfinned blue-eye, Scaturiginichthys vermeilipinnis, and control of alien gambusia, Gambusia holbrooki, in a spring wetland complex. Marine and Freshwater Research 64, 851–863.

Lintermans M. (2000). Recolonization by the mountain galaxias Galaxias olidus of a montane stream after the eradication of rainbow trout Oncorhynchus mykiss. Marine and Freshwater Research, 51, 799–804.

McNeil D.G., Wilson P.J. (2008). The speckled livebearer (Phalloceros caudimaculatus): A new alien fish for South Australia. South Australian Research and Development Institute (Aquatic Sciences), Adelaide. pp. 29 Publication number: F2008/000939-1. SARDI Research Report Series No. 316.

McNeil, D.G., Westergaard, S. and Hartwell, D (2010). Preliminary investigations into the control of speckled livebearers (Phalloceros caudimaculatus). Report to Primary Industries and Resources South Australia – Biosecurity. South Australian Research and Development Institute (Aquatic Sciences), Adelaide. SARDI Publication No. F2010/000306-1. SARDI Research Report Series No. 452. 29p.

McNeil, D.G., Thwaites L. and Westergaard, S. (2013). Effective Eradication off Speckled livebearer (Phalloceros caudimaculatus) from South Australia following establishment in Willunga Creek. Report to Biosecurity SA. South Australian Research and Development Institute, West Beach.

Rayner T.S. and Creese R.G. (2006). A review of rotenone use for the control of non-indigenous fish in Australian fresh waters, and an attempted eradication of the noxious fish, Phalloceros caudimaculatus. New Zealand Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research, 40, 477-486.