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EnvironmeNT : the newsletter of the Environment Centre NT



EnvironmeNT : the newsletter of the Environment Centre NT


Environment Centre NT


EnvironmeNT; E-Journals; PublicationNT; EnvironmeNT : the newsletter of the Environment Centre NT






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Environment Centre N.T; Ecology; Periodicals

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Environment Centre NT

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EnvironmeNT : the newsletter of the Environment Centre NT

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Environment Centre NT



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October 2002 Page 6 l Something fishy going on in the Daly River? l Amongst the devastation of landclearing and destructive development plans, a small ray of research sunshine breaks through. An opportunity for a day out of the office was eagerly seized with a fantastic trip to the Daly River to meet up with researcher Dean Thorburne and his sidekick Drew from Murdoch University Perth. Dean and Drew are undertaking a survey of a number of northern rivers in the NT and the Kimberley seeking to catch and understand more about the freshwater sawfish, the freshwater whip ray and bull sharks. Research in Cape York is being undertaken by an associate with a view to providing an indication of where these elasmobrachs (animals with cartilage instead of bone) live. Although we were unable to see any of these creatures that day, we had a great cruise down the river spotting pig nosed turtles and juvenile freshwater crocs and getting a feel for the river, the aquatic vegetation and its amazing flow, even in the dry after a very poor wet. In three months of survey work Dean and Drew have only caught five freshwater sawfish indicating how rare and cryptic these creatures are. A great deal more research effort will be required to uncover the ecology of these specieswork which all conservationists should support. Currently listed as vulnerable under Federal threatened species legislation, the freshwater sawfish is the largest freshwater fish in Australia! While our level of knowledge about their ecology is very poor, it is pretty safe to say that any broad-scale development of river catchments involving landclearing and water use, will alter the flow of the river and the quality of the water. A change in land use, for example conversion to irrigated agriculture, will significantly affect sawfish habitat which can only lead to negative impacts on sawfish populations . Rivers in the Gulf, Arnhemland, the Daly and the Katherine have been surveyed and the researchers are now making their way to the Kimberley where they aim to survey the Keep, Ord, Dunham, Fitzroy and many other rivers. The project should be completed by the end of the year while even a basic understanding of these species will remain elusive without further research. There is still no appropriate landclearing legislation in the Territory and with clearing continuing unabated in the Daly Basin the fate of these incredible species remains uncertain. Jann Crase. Northern Woodlands and Wetlands Campaigner Ph: 89417439 northernwoodlands@octa4.net.au From Left to Right: Drew and Dean Photo: Jann Crase Photo: Jann Crase