River Revival Launch

Working together will help the environment:

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:

  • increase awareness of the harm that pest fish
    can cause to the environment
  • reduce the risk of people spreading pest fish
  • improve the chances for the recovery of native
    fish populations.

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.

Carp lots

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:

  • bait bucket introductions — although illegal in
    many areas, sometimes live fish such as carp are
    used as bait
  • deliberate illegal stocking — pest fish might be
    illegally put in a pond, dam or waterway
  • deliberate release for cultural reasons — people
    may be celebrating a special event and believe
    it is ‘good luck’ to release fish
  • discarding aquarium fish — when cleaning or
    emptying a fish tank or aquarium fish can escape
    or be disposed of incorrectly
  • escape from aquaculture — mismanagement or
    a natural disaster such as flooding can result in
    escape of farmed fish
  • escape from outside water bodies — similarly,
  • the accidental escape of fish in outside ponds,
    lakes or dams can occur through mismanagement
    or flooding
  • transfer on commercial fishing gear — eggs or
    juveniles of pest fish can be caught in nets or
    fishing gear and accidentally transferred to
    another water body
  • water transfers — when water is moved by water
    authorities, farmers or other business from a
    water storage facility, lake or river and taken to
    another place, pest fish may also be transferred.

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

Targeted education:

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.

Adrian Wells Image: Lachlan CMA

Adrian Wells of the Murray-Darling Association with the New South Wales Fisheries’ River Revival Trailer talking to school students. Image: Lachlan CMA

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:

  • fish identification and general information
  • recreational fishing regulations
  • human behaviours assisting the spread of pest
  • the impacts of pest fish species on community
    assets and resources, such as water and fisheries
  • national, regional and local strategies and
    control programs
  • limitations of management options and
    opportunities presented by drought conditions.

Community education programs:

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.

pest-tales logo

Pest Tales, an online resource for teachers of Year 5 and 6 students. Freely available at http://www.pestales.org.au/

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 participation and extension opportunities:

Community events such as carp fishing competitions are targeted as family-friendly, fun fishing events, with education also a high priority3

The Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre (IA CRC):

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.

How can the public help?

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 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.


Brochure: ‘Don’t Dump Your Aquarium Fish’, produced by PIRSA. Available at http://www.pir.sa.gov.au/__data/assets/ pdf_file/0014/13091/aquarium_fish.pdf

Who can help?

Links to self reporting forms and phone numbers for the various state bodies:

New South Wales

  • Department of Trade and Investment, Regional Infrastructure and Services
  • Online pest fish reporting form
  • Ph 02 4916 3877 (recorded 24 hour service) or
    email: aquatic.pests@dpi.nsw.gov.au


  • Department of Agriculture and Fisheries
  • Online pest fish reporting form
  • QLD FISHWATCH Hotline 1800 017 116 or contact
    Queensland Fisheries on Ph 13 25 23

Northern Territory

  • Aquatic Biosecurity
  • Aquatic Pest Eradications
  • Aquatic Biosecurity Ph 08 8999 2126 or 08 8999 5511 or 24 hour mobile 0413 381 094 or
    email: aquaticbiosecurity@nt.gov.au

West Australia

  • Department of Fisheries
  • WA FISHWATCH Hotline 1800 815 507

South Australia

  • PIRSA Biosecurity Aquatics
  • SA FISHWATCH Hotline 1800 065 522


  • Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning
  • DELWP’s Customer Service Centre Ph 136 186
  • Department of Primary Industries
  • Illegal Fishing Hotline 13FISH (13 3474)


  • Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment – Aquatic Pests
  • Exotic Pest Hotline 1800 084 881

Australian Capital Territory

Further information:

  1. Lintermans M (2004). Human assisted dispersal of alien
    freshwater fish in Australia. New Zealand Journal of
    Marine and Freshwater Research 38:481–501.
  2. New South Wales Department of Primary Industries
    (2009). Recreational Fishers Make Things Happen!
    Stories About Fishers Improving Fish Habitat and
    Making More Fish Naturally. New South Wales
    Department of Primary Industries, Orange, New South
  3. Carp Fishing Competitions. PestSmart Toolkit case
    study, Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre,
  4. Wells A (2007). Community understanding and attitudes
    to alien fish. In: D Ansell and P Jackson (Eds), Emerging
    Issues in Alien Fish Management in the Murray–Darling
    Basin: Statement, Recommendations and Supporting
    Papers. Proceedings of a Workshop held in Brisbane
    Queensland 30–31 May 2006. Murray–Darling Basin
    Commission, Canberra.