As we move into the summer months in Australia, more of us will be enjoying our freshwater rivers. However, with the Murray-Darling Basin (MDB) in the news again, I find myself revisiting the content from the Native Fish Forum held in Dubbo 2023. Not only was I inspired by the “People making fish happen”, but the questions they posed about the future of native fish at a whole of Basin scale.

The challenge of managing fish populations across the entire MDB is a colossal one. Spanning across four states and one territory, the sheer scale of the Basin is an obstacle. In addition, the competing interests of different stakeholders and the variety of unique ecosystems across the MDB pose an even greater test.

I most recently viewed Ivor Stuart’s talk, “Native fish recovery efforts do work”, which covers where we are seeing fish recovery actions at work, why they are working, and what else needs to be done.

Watch the full presentation here:

The talk heavily focuses on the first objective of the original Native Fish Strategy (NFS) which was to restore native fish populations to 60% of pre-European levels within 5 decades (starting in 2002).

Ivor highlighted many the of the challenges of this enduring goal including:

Under-resourcing: millions if not billions of dollars are needed to fund fish recovery at this scale

Uncertain understanding: do we really understand how to place ourselves on a pathway to this objective?

Potential lack of vision: Are we working at right geographic and temporal scales? Is creeping up on answers (project-by-project) the most efficient way?

Ivor also touched on the challenge of leadership within the Murray-Darling Basin – a key component in Basin scale management. In an interview with Finterest, Ivor defined leadership as “everyone having each other’s backs and taking responsibility for our actions”

Watch his interview here:

His statements are reflective of ‘true blue’ values that many Australians look for in their leaders. In the context of the MDB, the governance of water across its states and one territory, accountability is one thing everyone is searching for, and it is evident that an adequately resourced program is in dire need. As Ivor suggests, it is important that we all ‘do our bit’ and make leadership happen on whatever scale we can. Whether this is implementing a fish recovery plan or simply practicing ethical recreational fishing practices, we can all put our hand up to do a bit more.

Congoli. Photo: Ivor Stuart

Hope for the future persists, it lives through the people and groups enacting the change they wish to see in native fish recovery.

Featured image: Murray cod restocking in the Lower Darling Baaka, November 2020.

Photo credit: NSW DPI.

Subscribe now for quarterly updates on Finterest articles