The latest decision to cut funding for the Native Fish Strategy is just another odd decision in a long line of questionable calls, the CEO of the National Irrigators’ Council (NIC), Tom Chesson said today.

Mr Chesson said that when it comes to decision making for the environmental health of the Murray Darling Basin, contradictory and illogical decisions are parfor the course.

“The Native Fish Strategy, which is one of the few areas that irrigators, communities, fishermen and environmentalists all agree needs to be funded, is being scrapped.”

“Irrigators have said time and time again that just adding water is not a solution to a complex web of environmental problems in the Basin. Complementary Natural Resource Management action is critical for to achieve a healthy working river system.”

“Even the MDBA Chair has acknowledged that unless environmental watering is integrated into broader natural resource management,the benefits of reforming water use would be ‘… underminded by environmental degradation stemming from a lack of investment in natural resource management.’

“Unless the Government broadens its efforts beyond simply removing productive water from communities, feral fish will continue to decimate our native fish and frog populations and a healthier river system will remain an impossible dream.”

Mr Chesson said the Government has acknowledged in its own document, ‘the Action Plan for Australian freshwater fishes’ under the heading ‘Lack of knowledge that:

“Many aspects of the biology and ecology of native fishes are poorly known. In addition nearly all of the above threatening processes are inadequately understood. Options for the conservation and management of threatened and non – threatened species are inhibited by lack of knowledge. Appropriate researchis seldom
funded and there are few long term monitoring programs to allow proper assessment of the effects of threatening processes.”

A recent story on the ABC’s Landline program, titled ‘Carp Wars’, highlighted the destructive capabilities of carp and the fact that numbers are escalating rapidly as a result of flooding. It made the point that cuts to funding are giving carp the upper hand.

Ministerial Advice obtained by the NIC shows this is not the first time the Government has ignored expert advice when it comes to saving Native Fish in the Murray Darling Basin.

“The Commonwealth Government’s Threatened Species Scientific Committee called on the Government to list introduced fish as a key threatening process under the EPB&C Act. This call was rejected on the 11/11/11 by the Federal Environment and Water Minister, Tony Burke.

“The Ministerial Advice makes it very clear that introduced fish have caused the local extinctions of some native fish and are continuing to threaten native fish and frog populations through predation, disease, habitat loss and competition for food,” Mr Chesson said.

“The NIC believes that, whilst there is certainly budget savings to be had in the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities and the MDBA, cutting the Native Fish Strategy is a short sighted move which will harm the environmental health of the Murray Darling Basin.

Mr Chesson said we are urging the Government to make up the funding shortfall and increase funding for on the ground works from either the billion dollar Clean Energy Biodiversity Fund or the two billion dollar Caring for Country program.

“At the end of the day the fish don’t care where the funding comes from,” Mr Chesson concluded.

Media Contact: Tom Chesson 0418 415597