Key Fish Habitat maps

One of the objectives of the Fisheries Management Act 1994 is to 'conserve key fish habitats'.

Not all aquatic habitats are important for the conservation of fish populations and the sustainability of fishing activities. Examples include irrigation channels and drains, urban ponds, sewage and salt evaporation ponds etc. Similarly, many of the 'streams' and 'lakes' depicted on topographic maps only hold water for short periods of time following rainfall.

In 2007, the Department embarked on a statewide project to define and identify 'Key Fish Habitats' – those aquatic habitats that are important to the sustainability of the recreational and commercial fishing industries, the maintenance of fish populations generally and the survival and recovery of threatened aquatic species.

A policy definition of the term 'Key Fish Habitat' (KFH) was developed to guide the compilation of maps. Essentially KFH was defined to include all marine and estuarine habitats up to highest astronomical tide level (that reached by 'king' tides) and most permanent and semi-permanent freshwater habitats including rivers, creeks, lakes, lagoons, billabongs, weir pools and impoundments up to the top of the bank. Small headwater creeks and gullies (known as first and second order streams), that only flow for a short period after rain are generally excluded, as are farm dams constructed on such systems. Wholly artificial waterbodies such as irrigation channels, urban drains and ponds, salt and evaporation ponds are also excluded except where they are known to support populations of threatened fish or invertebrates.

Maps were compiled on the basis of local government areas (see links below). Draft maps were field checked by the Department’s regionally based Fisheries Conservation Managers and amended as necessary to produce a final set pf maps.

Maps have also been developed showing estuarine habitat.

Policy definition of Key Fish Habitats

One of the objectives of the Fisheries Management Act is to '... conserve key fish habitats ...'. However the term 'key fish habitat' is not defined.

The following is an attempt to define what is meant by the term, to assist Departmental staff and members of the public achieve the objectives of the Act and help ensure that the legislation can be applied consistently across the state.

In understanding this definition it is important to remember that the term 'fish' includes all aquatic invertebrates such as yabbies, shrimps, oysters, mussels, insect larvae, beach worms, sea stars, jellyfish etc.

The approach taken has been to try to approach the definition from opposite directions and define what is, and what is not, included and hopefully leave nothing or very little in between. However there is a proviso that habitats that might otherwise be excluded, but are known or likely to be habitat for listed threatened species, populations or communities are always included.

What is included?

1. Oceanic, bay, inlet and estuarine habitats up to the level defined by High High Water Solstice Spring tides (so called 'King tides' or Highest Astronomical Tide).

2. Intermittently Closing and Opening Lakes and Lagoons (ICOLLs) up to the level at which they would naturally break out to the sea (which may be 2 or 3 metres above mean sea level).

3. Permanently flowing rivers and creeks including those where the flow is modified by upstream dam(s), up to the top of the natural bank regardless of whether the channel has been physically modified.

4. Intermittently flowing rivers and creeks that retain water in a series of disconnected pools after flow ceases including those where the flow is modified by upstream dam(s), up to the top of the natural bank regardless of whether the channel has been physically modified.

5. Billabongs, lakes, lagoons, wetlands associated with other permanent fish habitats (eg permanent rivers and creeks, estuaries etc).

6. Weir pools and dams (eg Hume, Blowering, Copeton, Menindee etc), up to full supply level, where the weir/dam is across a natural stream channel or waterway.

7. Flood channels or flood runners that may normally be dry but would be used by fish to move/migrate across or along floodplains between habitats during high flow events.

8. Mound springs

9. Any waterbody, regardless of whether or not it may be listed under the heading 'What is not included?' below, if it is known to support or could be confidently expected (based on predictive modelling) to support threatened species, threatened populations or threatened communities listed under the provisions of Part 7A of the Fisheries Management Act 1994.

What is not included?

1. Unmapped gullies and first and second order streams (based on the Strahler method of stream ordering) as determined from the largest scale topographic map produced for the area concerned (i.e. use 1:25,000 rather than 1:50:000 and use 1:50:000 rather than 1:100,000 and include all depicted streams). Note that this methodology only applies to 'gaining systems' – those where streams are coming together and becoming progressively larger.

2. Farm dams constructed on unmapped gullies and first and second order streams.

3. Purpose built irrigation and other water supply channels and off-stream storages.

4. Irrigation, agricultural or urban drains.

5. Urban ponds including water pollution control ponds and detention basins.

6. Sections of streams that have been concrete lined or piped (but not including where an otherwise natural stream passes through culverts).

7. Purpose-built salt evaporation ponds or basins.

8. Purpose-built aquaculture ponds.

9. Intermittent lagoons or wetlands filled from localised runoff and not otherwise hydrologically connected to other permanent habitats such as rivers, creeks, estuaries and ocean.

10. Canal estates.

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