Freshwater Guardian - Freshwater fishing news from the Department of Fisheries, Western Australia
Issue No. 1, September 2014

Guardian launched to protect WA's freshwaters

Freshwater Pic

Welcome to the first edition of Freshwater Guardian!

Our new and exciting newsletter aims to inform you about our work and the research being conducted in WA’s unique freshwater ecosystems.

Our Freshwater Ecosystems research section consists of a team of 14 staff based at three locations: the WA Fisheries and Marine Research Laboratory at Hillarys, the Aquaculture and Native Fish Breeding Laboratory located at the University of Western Australia’s Shenton Park Field Centre, and the Pemberton Freshwater Research Centre.

The research team works in partnership with the Department's compliance and policy staff to ensure the sustainability of the environmental, social and economic values of WA’s unique freshwater fish fauna and the ecosystems they live in. Our main areas of responsibility are:

Share this newsletter with your colleagues and friends, and please email any comments and suggestions about articles to us at

Can trout handle the heat?

Trout fishers

For many years, rainbow and brown trout have been stocked into public water bodies by the Department so that recreational anglers can enjoy the much-loved experience of trout fishing in south-west WA. 

All of the trout are born and bred by the experienced team at the Pemberton Freshwater Research Centre.  Thousands of rainbow trout and brown trout fry and yearlings are produced, and every year in July trout ‘stripping’ occurs. Stripping involves physically squeezing eggs from the females and milt from the males, then mixing them together. Mother Nature works her magic, the eggs are fertilised and set aside for a few weeks, and the young are born.

Each year, between June and September, we release fry (very young trout), yearlings (usually 80-100 grams or 20-25 centimetres in length) and ex-broodstock (larger adult fish) into water bodies in the south west. 

Just prior to this, an annual process is run so that everyone gets the chance to comment on this stocking process.  The fish are released into agreed locations that will not alter native fish populations and which include rivers and dams, where they provide recreational sport fishing opportunities for anglers.

Trout are also produced and sold to private farm dam owners for recreational fishing and tourism or to licensed aquaculture producers. Last year, 77 translocation approvals were granted to locals for non-commercial and commercial use.

The trout stocking program provides social benefits to the community in terms of quality recreational fishing, indigenous fishing opportunities and economic benefits to local regional towns.

The laboratory way keeps extinction at bay!


Have you ever kept fish in an aquarium? If so, you would be aware how much work is involved in keeping the fish alive. Can you imagine what is then required to run a two million litre aquarium system? Well, that is exactly what we do at the Aquaculture and Native Fish Breeding Laboratories (ANFBL).

This facility has been a joint operation between the Department of Fisheries and UWA since 1994. Major renovations undertaken over the last few years make this facility the largest of its kind in Australia, with a state of the art laboratory and quarantine, wetland and aquaculture breeding areas.

Excitement abounds when fish in your home aquarium successfully breed. You have replicated the fish’s natural environment so precisely that they consider your tank the perfect place to raise a family.

We strive to achieve this and our staff have developed captive breeding technology to produce large numbers of two native species, western minnow (Galaxias occidentalis) and pygmy perch (Nannoperca vittata). We are currently working on a third species, nightfish (Bostockia porosa), for restocking into Perth water bodies.

Excitingly, these methods have been transferred to the successful production of the critically endangered trout minnow (Galaxias truttaceus), the beginning of a captive breeding program to save the species from extinction!

So the next time you clean your home aquarium, spare a thought for the staff at the ANFBL.

The elephant in your lake

Emu Lakes

The phrase ‘elephant in the room’ is used to describe an obvious or important situation that is being ignored or unaddressed. One such elephant was quietly swimming in your local lake until we commenced a massive survey of metropolitan waterbodies – this elephant being feral fish.

Feral fish arrive from overseas or from other areas in Australia, and don't belong in our waters. Once they make it to our waterways, they can cause massive problems for native fish and crustaceans.

The survey found more species of feral fish in our waterbodies than native species, and more waterbodies containing only feral fish than those containing only natives. Where the two groups are found together, the feral fish are dominating the natives like an enraged bull elephant.

It is ironic that our love of water and fish is the very thing that has caused this issue. We create little waterbodies inside our homes, providing a wonderful place for spectacular tropical fish, but as the novelty of aquariums wears off we are stuck with pet fish we no longer want.

Some of us then release these unwanted fish into the wild, thinking it’s humane. However, those little pet fish are likely to be killed by the shock of the water or eaten by predators. If not, they can go on to breed and amass huge numbers. Pearl cichlids for instance have spread over 20 kilometres of the Swan River in only eight years.

The survey will be completed towards the end of 2014 and the results will help prioritise future biosecurity actions. If you suspect you have identified an introduced freshwater pest, marine pest or aquatic disease in a WA aquatic environment, please report it to us.

Image credit: Trout fishers, photo courtesy Josh Simpson.