In the early 2000s, several workshops were held to address specific native fish management issues within the MDB. These workshops were organised by Inland Rivers Network and World Wildlife Fund Australia, with support and participation by many other organisations, including the then MDBC. Workshops included ‘The way forward on weirs’ in 2000, Thermal pollution of the MDB waterways in 2001 and Managing fish translocations and stocking in the MDB in 2002. The findings of these workshops helped inform the development and implementation of the NFS.
These workshops clearly demonstrated the value of bringing a diversity of scientists, managers and interest groups together to understand each other’s perspectives, learn from each other, and identify recommendations for future actions. Once the NFS came into operation, further workshops were held specifically under its banner. These included:
- Downstream movement of fish in the MDB (2003)
- Management of Murray cod in the MDB (2004)
- Native fish habitat rehabilitation and management in the MDB (2004)
- Native fish and wetlands in the MDB (2005)
- Emerging issues in alien fish management in the MDB (2006)
- Gambusia forum (2011)
- Native fish emergency response workshop (2007) and (2011)
- Demonstration Reach managers workshops (2011, 2012 and 2013)
There were also several IACRC forums in 2012 focussing on Carp and Tilapia, of which the MDBA was a cofunder. Following advice from the NFS’s Implementation Working Group (which became the Native Fish Advisory Panel), an ‘Expert Panel’ was convened to consider the management of native fish during drought. This panel comprised scientific and management experts from within the Basin and liaised with jurisdictional representatives within land and water natural resource management. The panel produced a report ‘Fish out of water – lessons for managing native fish during drought’. This report was intended to inform the MDBC and other federal and state agencies. It provided recommendations of high priority actions, as well as specific actions which should be avoided.
The variety of recommendations which arose from workshops encompassed research needs to fill knowledge gaps, policy reform ideas, specific onground actions and communication and engagement. Many recommendations were subsequently incorporated into NFS activities. Strong and enduring associations were developed between those involved and interested in the management of native fish within the MDB.
From 2007 onwards, annual NFS forums were held. Their objectives were to:
- achieve a broad understanding of the outcomes and progress of research and adoption projects and programs within NFS
- provide a forum for active engagement between members of the stakeholder groups set up to implement the NFS
- provide a vehicle for cross fertilisation of ideas regarding the NFS’s implementation, including future priorities for research and onground management.
These forums proved to be an extremely important and effective method of engaging a wide cross section of representatives within the NRM field. Approximately 150 participants would attend forums, comprising federal, state and local government staff, scientists from government, universities and consultancies, Indigenous representatives, interest and industry groups, CST and NFS members. Relationships were both built and strengthened. Sharing and learning from each other’s experiences proved invaluable, particularly through panel discussions and more informal settings. The forums also provided a key method of disseminating the results of NFS projects, acting as an annual report card on progress, celebrating key successes and identifying clear directions for the future.