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Sawfish Research and Barriers to Migration

Description: Wheatsone sawfish offsets project
Location: Ashburton River, Myroodah Crossing and the Camballin  Barrage  on  the  Fitzroy River,  and  Ivanhoe  Crossing, Lake Kununurra Diversion Dam.
Project Leader: David Morgan (Jeff Whitty, James Keleher, Mark Allen and Stephen Beatty), Freshwater Fish Group and Fish Health Unit, Murdoch University
Telephone: 9360 2813
Email: D.Morgan@murdoch.edu.au

Chevron has provided funding to WAMSI to research measures that remove barriers to sawfish migration in riverine habitats and to recommend measures to protect sawfish populations.

Globally, no fishways have been constructed specially for sawfish, and there are no fishways currently operating in sawfish habitats in WA.

Part of the study will determine the swimming performance of sawfish to generate hydrological thresholds to ensure that construction of any fishway will enable passage. The results of this study will determine if the design and installation of fishways is a preferred option for achieving the objectives to EPBC 2008/4469 Condition 66d.

Pending the results and recommendations of this study, Chevron will also fund the design, fit or retrofitting of five sawfish-appropriate fishways or alternative measures to remove barriers to sawfish passage in riverine habitat in the Pilbara and/or Kimberley regions.

Program Description

The Sawfish Project is to provide a sound scientific basis for the development of effective fishways for sawfish in WA.

This Sawfish Project will be conducted in two stages.

Stage One

Chevron has provided funding to WAMSI for stage one of the Sawfish Project. Chevron specified to WAMSI (Marine Wildlife Research Node) that the funding is to be used for the purpose of developing a comprehensive program of work including desk top and field based studies to meet the requirements of EPBC 2008/4469 Conditions 66c. Stage One of the Sawfish Project includes the following four phases.

Phase 1:

Undertake a desktop assessment of all instream barriers in northern WA and also the distribution of sawfish and other threatened fishes, and from this produce a short-list of potential fishway sites.

Phase 2:

Undertake ground truthing of the short-listed sites in order to determine the spatial and temporal movement patterns (via acoustic tracking) of resident sawfishes in relation to the barriers, and to qualify the potential benefit of fishway construction at each site.

Phase 3:

Assess the swimming performance of freshwater sawfish including burst, prolonged and sustained swimming performance in a purpose-built swim tunnel and using accelerometers in the field in order to generate hydrological thresholds to cater for sawfish passage.

Phase 4:

Determine whether fishways area preferred option for achieving the objectives of EPBC 2008/4469 Condition 66d. Recommend priority fishway location(s) and their design criteria.

Stage Two

Chevron will consider and asses the results and recommendations of Stage One of the Sawfish Project to determine whether the installation of fishways or alternate measures are preferred to remove barriers to sawfish passage and to meet the requirements of EPBC2008/4469Condition 66d.

Chevronwill provide funding to develop and implement Stage Two of the Sawfish Project based on the results of Stage One.

Milestones

Stage One

Key milestones include:

  • Establish governance arrangements with WAMSI to develop, in consultation with Chevron, a research program to achieve the study objectives [Complete: 19/04/2013].
  • Finalise study objectives (for each phase)[Complete: 19/04/2013].
  • Transfer funds to WAMSI[Complete: 19/04/2013].
  • Annual report of results relating to studies undertaken to achieve the agreed research objectives[Ongoing].

Stage Two

Key milestones for Stage Two will be developed once the results and recommendations of Stage One have been considered.

Performance Indicators

Stage One Performance indicators include:

  • Governance arrangement executed by WAMSI and Chevron [Complete: 19/04/2013].♦
  • Study objectives documented in a Science Plan[Complete: 19/04/2013].
  • Funds released by Chevron to WAMSI[Complete: 29/05/213].
  • Annual report received from WAMSI detailing the results relating to studies undertaken to achieve the agreed research objectives [Ongoing].

Stage Two

Performance indicators for Stage Two will be developed once the results and recommendations of Stage One have been considered.

 

Extract from the Wheatstone Project Biodiversity Offsets Strategy