Fish Passage

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Nearly one-third of Australia’s 230 native species of freshwater fishes are found in the Burdekin Dry Tropics region. Many of these fish need to migrate in order to survive and reproduce. Structures like culverts, causeways, weirs and dams prevent fishes from migrating. Even a small (20cm) rise at a causeway or fast-flowing water through a culvert can block fish movement upstream. Weeds can also inhibit fish movement by choking waterways and removing oxygen.

Since 2007, NQ Dry Tropics has removed 30 top priority fish barriers, opening up more than 5,000 kilometres of waterways in the Burdekin catchment. Funding from the Australian and Queensland governments and key partnerships with organisations like SunWater, North Burdekin Water Board, local governments, the Queensland Government’s Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation (DEEDI), Oceanwatch and James Cook University have made this work possible.

With more than 1000 ecologically significant barriers identified in the region there is still have a long way to go before all fish can move freely, but there has already been some significant achievements.

For example:
• An old unused privately-owned road crossing at Stuart Creek was the first complete removal of a barrier in the region. Jungle perch, Barramundi, Mangrove Jack and Tarpon are now able to move freely again.
• An inexpensive eel trap made from a wheely bin, PVC pipe and astro turf, has now transported 3,500 eels to the upper reaches above Ross River Dam.
• In Payard’s Lagoon, 90 percent of all fish were plague minnow, a noxious pest. After weeds were removed, these pests now make up only 25 percent of fishes.
• Gambusia was once a common pest fish in the Sheepstation Creek system but they have not been recorded since March 2005 following weed removal.
• At Collinson’s Lagoon, only six species of fish were recorded. After weeds were removed in 2008, 11 species were found. Native fishes such as Spangled perch, rainbow fish, Banded grunter, mullet, Bony bream, scats and Empire gudgeon now return to many sites within this waterway.

Prior research in the lower Burdekin suggests that fish populations can nearly double once barriers are removed, so whilst extensive fish monitoring is not viable, the removal of barriers will almost certainly enhance freshwater fish populations throughout the region. Aside from building fishways, NQ Dry Tropics has achieved some excellent behavioral, knowledge and attitude changes. NQ Dry Tropics brokered essential partnerships for fishway development, made sure councils had access to the latest fishway technology and brought experts to the region to provide advice.

NQ Dry Tropics long standing relationship with Alluvium, a consultancy company for fish passage work, has resulted in significant in-kind support. NQ Dry Tropics has successfully connected local community groups with key state and federal government departments and these partnerships have resulted in successful grant applications, meaning more fish barriers can be removed.

Stakeholders now realise the value of fish passage and place a higher priority on removing fish barriers. The message, along with new legislation, means that councils now use fish-friendly designs when undertaking works. Landholders are now more aware of the impact of weeds on fish populations and have voluntarily signed up for ongoing monetary contributions to weed control and fishways installation.

Together, NQ Dry Tropics, the Queensland and Australian governments, local councils, industry, scientific organisations, and community groups are making a difference for the fishes, ecosystems, and residents of the Dry Tropics region.

Related information

Identified Fish Barriers in the Dry Tropics Region

Fish Barriers on a Google map

This is a legacy website. Content is not being updated but is kept as an archive.
Updated NRM information is now held in the NQ Dry Tropics NRM Information Portal at
while corporate information about NQ Dry Tropics is held on our main website at
NQ Dry Tropics Website