Spying on River Blackfish

Researchers from Deakin University have turned to spy-like aquatic surveillance to uncover the secret life of river blackfish (Gadopsos marmoratus) and give them a helping hand.

Once abundant, river blackfish populations have declined across south-east Australia due to a reduction in habitat condition. Traditional fish surveys have generally found only older fish and only a very few new recruits. Why is this so?

As an egg layer, possibly increased sedimentation is smothering suitable spawning habitat for river blackfish. This points to a need to further understand what is happening with spawning and recruitment processes, and to trial artificial spawning habitat.

To unravel what exactly is going on, this has led researchers at Deakin University to take a novel approach by developing a specialised camera system network in 2019 to monitor the spawning of river blackfish in the Gellibrand River Catchment.

Now 12 months on, the footage from the deployment of the camera’s in 2019/20 have been reviewed and has recorded visits from three blackfish to three seperate cameras which were deployed in Loves Creek.

Other cameras were set up in the Gellibrand River, and unfortunately no blackfish were recorded.

These results have informed researchers that fish do visit the new habitats, prior to or after a spawning event has taken place. The cameras has also taken footage of small invertebrates such as insect tubes and shrimp as well as spiny crayfish and an eel.

In preparation for the upcoming river blackfish spawning season several tweaks to the camera network are also being made to address the variation of the quality of the images depending on the camera and substrate conditions, and improving the battery life.

This footage adds further value to the use of this technology for fish monitoring programs in the future. Hopefully this year footage can be captured of a spawning event.

Further information

Keen to learn more about the project? Get in contact with:
Dr. Travis Howson
River Blackfish Monitoring Project, Deakin University
[email protected]

This project is funded from your Recreational Fishing Licence fees.

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