Hazelwood barra thrown a hot water lifeline

Futurefish Director David Kramer with a cracking barramundi from Hazelwood Pondage near Morwell in Victoria

AS a follow up to last week’s report about the state of the barramundi fishery in Hazelwood Pondage, near Morwell in Victoria, Fishing World can now bring you some more positive news.

John Newbery’s report was correct in stating that the power station closure was not ideal for the barra, as it means that the major source of constant hot water in the pondage has now been switched off. However, it is by no means the end of the road for the Hazelwood fishery.

As reported in this article in The Age, many barramundi have swum out of the main body of water in the pondage in search of warmer water. The area where they are now congregated houses a pipe that continuously delivers warm water from a natural aquifer beneath the nearby Hazelwood coal mine.

Futurefish Director, David Kramer, says that many barramundi relocated themselves, but that other fish had been captured by Fisheries Victoria staff using electrofishing techniques and moved to the warmer water. “So far there hasn’t been a single dead barra found,” said Kramer. “The natural hot water could sustain the fishery for another 7 years. And the good thing is that many fish are nearly a metre long”.

Fisheries Victoria executive director Travis Dowling was similarly optimistic about the outlook for the remaining barramundi.  “The hot water channel looks like it will maintain a temperature that will get the barra through winter. And we anticipate that if the barra do survive winter they will, come the warmer months, spread out again across the lake,” said Dowling.

“We’ve done some sonar testing, and we anticipate there’s two to three tonne of barra that are sitting up in the warm water channel,” Dowling said said. “There may still be 4000 to 5000 barra in the pondage”.

About 7000 barramundi were placed in the pondage about 18 months ago by Fisheries Victoria, to give Victorian fishermen the chance to catch the prized sportfish, native to the waters of northern Australia. A recent survey of 3,500 anglers who had visited the pondage to fish for the barra revealed that anglers had spent in excess of $700,000 in the region while doing so. Given that it cost only $150,000 to establish the fishery it has been a huge economic success story for the region, even if the remaining barra don’t see another day.

It’s not all beer and skittles, however, as fishing is currently prohibited in the channel where most barra have migrated to, and, for now, the number of barramundi remaining in the part of the lake where fishing is allowed could be only about 200.

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