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The management of pest fish in Australia needs a coordinated approach between all stakeholders including government, industry, research providers and the broader community. Community engagement, acceptance and support are essential to the success of an integrated pest fish management program; that is, one that takes many approaches.
Targeted public education will:
Pest fish, such as carp and tilapia, have spread extensively across much of Australia, largely by
natural dispersal (movement through rivers and streams) helped by floods carrying these fish into
areas normally isolated from the main river systems.
Community engagement is the key to a successful integrated pest fish management program
Unfortunately, humans have also played an important and ongoing role in the spread of pest fish, especially into new catchments1
Pest fish have been spread by humans in various ways:
The significance of the majority of these pest fish dispersal methods is that humans are involved in most of them either deliberately or because they are not aware of the consequences.
To help manage pest fish in Australia, the community must be engaged and must be given accurate information2
Cooperation between management agencies, community groups and sectors such as recreational
fishing, commercial fishing and tourism, is essential. Partnerships need to be fostered through locally developed and owned pest fish management plans. Community education should consider cultural groups and cater for their communication needs, for example by providing multilingual resources.
Education products and key messages can be targeted to particular community groups such
as recreational anglers and school groups and associated businesses such as bait and tackle shops, boat clubs, ornamental fish breeders and traders. Improved community awareness and understanding of pest fish issues can be achieved by targeted publicity on:
State-based pest management frameworks and strategies have been developed to provide direction to government, industry and managers for the management of declared and potential pests. Education and awareness are identified as key goals and actions needed for effective pest management.
National programs such as Waterwatch (a community water quality network) aim to help
communities understand, monitor, protect, and restore waterway and catchment health. As fish
species are occasionally collected and observed during water-quality monitoring activities, there is
increasing interest in freshwater fish, which creates an educational opportunity to highlight pest fish species.
Angler participation programs (eg Victoria’s ‘Diary Angler’ program, Queensland’s ‘Keen Angler’ program and Western Australia’s ‘Research Angler’ program) provide potentially valuable opportunities to educate anglers and obtain information about pest freshwater fish incursions and distributions of fish species. Fisheries–focused educational programs also include the volunteer organisation of Fishcare (operating for example in Victoria, South Australia, New South Wales, Tasmania and Western Australia).
Curriculum-based education resources are available on pests, sustainable fishing and aquatic pests. The Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre (IA CRC) and the Institute of Applied Ecology at the University of Canberra, with funding assistance from The Natural Heritage Trust, have produced ‘Pest Tales’: a module for upper primary school students that explores the characteristics of pest animals and the complexities of dealing with them in Australia.
Queensland Fisheries have developed an ‘Aquatic invaders’ educational module aimed at upper primary to lower secondary school students. It was designed to help students understand the impact of pest fish infestations in natural waterways.
Education and awareness are identified as key goals and actions needed for effective pest management
Online resources are available on the websites of state and territory fisheries agencies. All these sites have community education programs to varying extents about pest fish. Most have specific online information and publications about particular pest freshwater fish. Pamphlets, brochures and posters can be obtained from some agencies, most with a focus on correct disposal of ornamental or aquarium fish.
Community events such as carp fishing competitions are targeted as family-friendly, fun fishing events, with education also a high priority3
The IA CRC Freshwater Program project Engaging Communities of the Murray–Darling Basin about the Freshwater Products and Strategies Program built on, expanded and enhanced the community engagement process of the previous two and a half years of the Pest Animal Control CRC’s research. This included presentations on the Freshwater Program at community events, local government council meetings, schools, youth forums, state government agency meetings, Catchment Management Authority and other community activities and festivals4.
Members of the public are often the first to discover a new population of pest fish in the wild. This information can be very valuable in helping to manage pest fish problems. State and territory reporting systems vary, but generally it is via a phone hotline.
To report suspicious activities, see the ‘Who can help?’ section for state and territory contacts. To report a new pest fish incursion, visit http://www. pestsmart.org.au/dss/
Communities (through groups such as the National Carp and Pest Fish Task Force) can encourage local stewardship of the aquatic environment and coordinate local group development and action. They can also improve the quality of education used to raise community awareness of pest fish and what can be done to manage them.
Links to self reporting forms and phone numbers for the various state bodies:
New South Wales
Australian Capital Territory