$500,000 fish ladder launched at Fitzroy Barrage improves habitat connectivity

An innovative fishway installed at the Fitzroy River Barrage in Rockhampton, as part of a $2 million Fitzroy Basin Association (FBA) program, has significantly increased fish numbers moving into freshwater habitats upstream in the river.
The ladder was officially launched on Friday ahead of World Fish Migration Day, with a preliminary survey showing up to 400 fish are passing through the new structure every minute.
Federal Member for Capricornia Michelle Landry said the Australian Government’s Reef Programme contributed $500,000 toward the fish ladder– including its design, construction and monitoring.
“The aims to improve the sustainability of the lower Fitzroy system, which provides benefits to the Great Barrier Reef.”
“Fish species are an important aspect of this ecosystem and the $500,000 fish ladder project will allow Mother Nature to continue to go about undisrupted by man-made structures like the city’s water barrage,” she said.
“The federal government is proud to assist with this project which will help support a healthier barrier reef and the number of fish using it every minute is testament that the research is worthwhile.”
Fitzroy Basin Association Inc. (FBA) Chief Executive Officer Paul Birch said the barrage had an older fishway but it was too challenging for small fish to traverse, and some migratory fish species had great difficulty using it.
“Reducing barriers that prevent the movement of migratory fish is essential to promoting the sustainability of a productive and biodiverse system,” Mr Birch said.
“To breed, adult barramundi must migrate from freshwater to marine environments, while juveniles must move back upstream in freshwater habitats to survive. If these migrations are inhibited, then they are unable to breed and juveniles die, reducing their stocks.”
Mr Birch said the improved fishway was completed by FBA through funding from the Australian Government’s Reef Programme and Rockhampton Regional Council.
Rockhampton Regional Councillor (Environment and Sustainability) Drew Wickerson said built alongside the existing fishway, the new structure features innovative design techniques that reduce the velocity of water flowing from the upper level of the river to the below barrage level.
He said this allows juvenile fish as small as 9mm to navigate their way safely upstream through the Barrage.
“In addition, once migratory fish have entered the new structure, they are able to make their way through the fishway irrespective of tide levels, resting and hiding from predators in deep pools along their journey,” Cr Wickerson said.
“The design and project implementation has provided a highly cost effective, and low maintenance solution that demonstrates the excellent outcomes possible through mutually beneficial partnerships,” he said.
Mr Birch said the new fishway had been officially opened to coincide with World Fish Migration Day on Saturday 21 May. World Fish Migration Day is a global celebration highlighting the importance of habitat connectivity to migratory fish species.
“Recognising the role habitat connectivity plays is an important step in protecting migratory fish across the globe,” he said. “Our fishway is not just locally important, it’s internationally important, too.”