“Carp Love 20 degrees celsius” – a community engagement initiative

“Carp Love 20 degrees celsius” – a community engagement initiative

As with much of the Murray Darling Basin, the Upper Murrumbidgee River catchment (upstream of Burrinjuck Dam at Yass) is plagued with carp. In the Upper Murrumbidgee River catchment, Sustainable Rivers Audit sampling has previously identified carp as making up approximately 70% of fish biomass (SRA 2012), and their distribution is continuously growing throughout the catchment. The Upper Murrumbidgee Demonstration Reach  produced a carp reduction plan (Stuart et al. 2010) that highlights the need for more information regarding the movement ecology, reproduction and recruitment of this species to aid future management programs.

“Carp Love 20oC” was launched by Upper Murrumbidgee Waterwatch in spring 2015 to engage the local community in the Upper Murrumbidgee catchment to report sightings of carp aggregations and breeding behavior on the Invasive Animals CRC FeralFishScan database. The initiative was advertised in many ways including promotional materials distributed to local fishing tackle stores, a media release from the Environment and Planning Directorate of the ACT Government, articles in local newsprint and radio interviews. A competition was also included as part of the campaign in an attempt to increase interest.

The launch of the campaign was aimed to coincide with peak breeding activity of carp, which in the Upper Murrumbidgee River catchment is loosely correlated with spring water temperatures reaching 20 degrees celsius. By the time the campaign officially ended on 7 December 2015, 91 carp sightings had been reported across the Upper Murrumbidgee River catchment. 19 of these explicitly identified carp breeding behaviour. The number and size class of fish, their behaviour along with date, location and habitat attributes were recorded. This will be used to further plot known breeding habitats of carp in the Upper Murrumbidgee River catchment.

The goal is to continue running this campaign each spring to gain further information on carp breeding and movement behaviour. Further research is being undertaken to explore whether identified breeding habitats are major sources of recruitment, using otolith-based techniques that can reveal the natal source of fishes (Crook et al. 2013, Starrs et al. in press). Ongoing engagement and contributions from the public are essential to forming a complete picture of carp reproduction and recruitment dynamics in the Upper Murrumbidgee River catchment.

References:

Crook, DA, Macdonald, JI, McNeil, DG, Gilligan, DM, Asmus, M, Maas, R, Woodhead, J (2013) Recruitment sources and dispersal of an invasive fish in a large river system as revealed by otolith chemistry analysis. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 70:953-963

 SRA (2012) Sustainable Rivers Audit. Murray Darling Basin Authority, Canberra.

Starrs, D, Ebner, BC, Fulton, CJ (2016) All in the ears: unlocking the early life history biology and spatial ecology of fishes. Biological Reviews 91: 86-105. doi: 10.1111/brv.12162

 Stuart, I, Higham, J, Lintermans, M, Braysher, M, Phillips, B (2010) Carp reduction plan for the Upper Murrumbidgee Demonstration Reach and surrounding region.

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Danswell Starrs

Danswell Starrs

Danswell Starrs is the scientific officer of the Upper Murrumbidgee Waterwatch program. Danswell’s research examines species-habitat relationships and methods for fish ecology and fisheries research. Danswell’s current research includes exploring otolith-based techniques for improving our understanding of native and feral fish biology and ecology.
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