Current projects on Fitzroy Falls Spiny Crayfish

Totally Cray Cray Project

An exciting and much-needed initiative is underway on the NSW Southern Highlands to extend a helping hand to one of Australia’s most threatened aquatic species. South East Local Land Services and DPI Fisheries, with support from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program, have joined forces to work toward securing the future of a critically endangered native spiny crayfish.

The Fitzroy Falls Spiny Crayfish (Euastacus dharawalus) is a naturally rare species of freshwater spiny crayfish. It is only found within a 12km stretch of creek in the Southern Highlands, NSW. It is listed as critically endangered by the NSW Fisheries Scientific Committee and nationally under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).

Euastacus dharawalus (Fitzroy Falls Spiny Crayfish (Photo by Alex Pike)

The 'Totally Cray Cray' project is helping to improve the trajectory of the Fitzroy Falls Spiny Crayfish through a suite of actions including habitat improvement and pest removal.  An exciting research project is also being undertaken by the University of Wollongong in partnership with DPI Fisheries and Local Land Services, which will involve tracking animal movement, monitoring of their health and behaviour, and analysing predator prey interactions to inform management responses.

The decline of this species is likely attributed to the cumulative impacts of predation by carp and yabbies, trampling of burrows by livestock and the division of the population through the construction of the Fitzroy Falls Reservoir. The loss of cooling vegetation on the water’s edge has also made it very hard for the crayfish to get through stressful events like drought.

Support is now available to land managers with property adjacent to key habitat. Funding for important farm infrastructure such as riparian fencing to exclude stock from the waterways and the installation off-stream watering systems will in-turn provide much cleaner and accessible water quality for livestock, as well as protecting the creek from trampling. Planting some tough local species along the creekline will encourage bank stability, keep the aquatic food-web cycling and improve water quality to support the crays. This is a big opportunity to work with Local Land Services to be a key part of securing the future of this unique spiny cray.

DPI Fisheries researchers in action

As part of the National Landcare Program funded project for ‘Securing the Future of the Fitzroy Falls Spiny Crayfish’, local Aboriginal artist Noel Wellington has carved two poles with designs representing the FFSC and the holes and water they call home. The poles have been installed outside the NPWS Fitzroy Falls Visitors Centre to help raise awareness of the local population of FFSC.

A close up of one of the poles The FFSC pole

The two poles that local Aboriginal artist Noel Wellington has carved with designs representing the FFSC and the holes and water they call home

Ph.D research being conducted at University of Wollongong is proceeding well. In 2020 work has included collecting tissue samples of both FFSC and yabbies from Wildes Meadows Creek to determine the degree of dietary overlap (using stable isotope analysis at the ANSTO facility). A radio tracking study has also commenced which shows that both species move very little at night and are most active at midday, also both prefer bank habitat and maintain a small home range. eDNA analysis of pest animal stomach contents (from carp, trout, yabbies and Gambusia) will be done in 2021 to determine levels of predation of juvenile FFSC.

Watch a video about our Totally Cray Cray project (1:06 mins)

See Fitzroy Falls Spiny Crayfish for more information about the species.