PEST FISH: Tilapia were first introduced into Australia in the 1970s as ornamental fish and are now regarded as one of the greatest threats to Australia's native biodiversity. PHOTO: Queensland Government
PEST FISH: Tilapia were first introduced into Australia in the 1970s as ornamental fish and are now regarded as one of the greatest threats to Australia's native biodiversity. PHOTO: Queensland Government

Proserpine River clear of pest fish tilapia

IN SOME parts of the world like East Africa, tilapia breeding is encouraged.

But in the Whitsunday region, the fresh water fish is an introduced species and has been dubbed as the "cane toads of our waterways."

Whitsunday Regional Council said in a statement they had recently engaged Catchment Solutions to monitor the river and nearby creek systems for the pest fish.

The survey confirmed fish populations in the lower Proserpine River Myrtle Creek and Brandy Creek were clear of tilapia.

Whitsunday Regional Council Deputy Mayor and Division 3 Councillor John Collins said it was positive news for the health of the region's southern waterways.

"If left unchecked tilapia can have a significant impact on our creeks and rivers, which are currently in good condition," he said.

Tilapia is listed in the world's top 100 invasive species. The non-native fish is a prolific breeder, incredibly adaptable which negatively impact native fish populations.

Their nesting habits also greatly affect water quality.

Cr Collins said the Mackay-Whitsunday region had reported the highest ever catch rates of mangrove jack and barramundi and that the Catchment Solutions trapping methods were used in the fish survey.

"It's good news for recreational fishers, and also demonstrates the recent improvements over the last 10 years in our land management and farming practices," he said.

The survey recorded a significant increase in catch rates for the 2018 pre-wet-season in Myrtle Creek, with 18.3 fish caught per minute compared to 5.36 fish per minute in 2008.

This is over three times the amount that was caught decade ago.

Tilapia vary in colour from dark olive to silver-grey, and are a deep-bodied fish with thick profiles, long snouts and pronounced lips/jaws.

It's advised that fishers don't release them back into the water if caught, use them for bait or stock any of the introduced fish in local dams or ponds, as this will help to avoid the spread of tilapia in Whitsunday waterways.

Recreational fishers are asked to be aware of the threat of tilapia and continue to report sightings to council or Biosecurity Queensland.

To combat the presence of tilapia in Bowen's Mullers Lagoon, the council will be hosting a Tilapia Catching Day on Saturday, May 18, from 10am-12.30pm at the Lagoon.

The Tilapia Catching Day is a free event for families and will include a fishing competition with prizes, jumping castle, free sausage sizzle and more.


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