A fundamental component of the NFS was knowledge generation and exchange achieved by undertaking research to fill our gaps regarding fish and river ecology. Over 90 specific research projects were funded during the life of the NFS. Project ideas came from many sources including the NFS workshops and forums, the Native Fish Advisory Panel (NFAP), industry stakeholders, as well as from previous research projects and international developments in fish ecology and management.
Scientists across all jurisdictions were engaged in NFS research projects in multiple ways and at many levels. The NFAP included senior scientists and managers from the MDBA, relevant Commonwealth agencies and all jurisdictions with primary responsibility for native fish conservation and fisheries management and an independent scientist. Scientists within all jurisdictions contributed to project ideas and undertook specific research projects once they were initiated. Scientists involved in the NFS came from federal, state and territory governments, universities, as well as large and small consultancies.
The workshops, forums and research projects clearly demonstrated the value of bringing a diversity of scientists, managers and interest groups together to work together, understand each other’s perspectives, learn from each other and identify future research needs. For scientists, strong and enduring associations were developed, and they were able to share and learn from each other’s experiences and celebrate successes.
The 2009 review of the NFS found the research and development projects had been relevant to the objectives and driving actions of the NFS and were of a good scientific standard. The review also acknowledged that priorities within NRM agencies can differ, and that the NFS had led to increased cooperation and partnership between these agencies. Linkages were also achieved across other initiatives such as the Living Murray, the Sustainable River Audit and Invasive Animal CRC with staff from related and cofunded research projects working closely together.
Many of the research projects were cross jurisdictional, collaborative and collegiate in nature. Selection of priority projects proposals by the NFAP included assessment of whether outcomes were transferable to other areas. Strong examples of cross jurisdictional projects include the Sea to Hume Dam fishways, Murray cod modelling, marking of hatchery fish and Demonstration Reaches.
The NFS placed a strong focus on partnerships and communication and so scientists participating in research projects frequently engaged with other groups and stakeholders. This included presenting at forums and workshops, as well as field days with interest groups and the general community. Many research projects disseminated the results of their work to CMA and NRM staff, stakeholder and interest groups, with the key aim of influencing onground management. The participation of scientists in many NFA week activities enabled them to share their learnings with the broader community and also helped them understand other peoples’ perspectives and interests. The linkages and partnerships formed, and the efforts of the Coordinators to disseminate these research results, saw many of the outcomes taken up and applied into onground actions.