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Media Release
Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Senator the Hon. Ian Campbell

23 August 2004

Ladders give fish a leg up on the Murray

Threatened native fish in the Murray-Darling Basin received a helping hand today with the official opening of fish ladders designed to help them travel more than 2000 km from the Southern Ocean to the Hume Dam.

The Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Senator Ian Campbell, opened the "Sea to Hume Dam" project at Lock 8 on the Murray River.

He said $25 million had been allocated for the ladders along the river as part of the $150 million Living Murray's Works and Measures Program.

"Native fish species tell us a lot about the overall health of the Basin and its rivers," he said. "They can be a clear warning that the natural ecological functioning of the rivers are at risk.

"Over the past 200 years, the numbers of native fish populations in the Murray-Darling Basin have fallen dramatically and those that have survived have become fragmented and their movement seriously restricted.

"Experts estimate that current levels are about 10 per cent compared to pre-European settlement."

Threats to the river's native fish include flow regulation, habitat degradation, lowered water quality, introduction of alien fish species, the spread of diseases, translocation and stocking of fish and man-made barriers to fish movement.

"By constructing the ladders between the various locks on the Murray, the fish will be able to travel along the full length of the river," Senator Campbell said.

"The ladders are gently sloping passages that enable fish to migrate upstream past each weir at any time. This will assist with the breeding processes and contribute to greater fish numbers and better genetic diversity."

The need for the 'Sea to Hume Dam' project was identified in the Murray-Darling Native Fish Strategy and is based on results of a joint monitoring program between the Australian, Victorian, South Australian and New South Wales Governments.

The construction of fishways at Locks 7 and 8 not only clears the way for native fish, but work has also been undertaken to improve access for boats.

Senator Campbell said the work was an excellent example of cooperation between jurisdictions and assisted in realising the commission's goal of the basin sustaining viable fish populations and communities throughout its rivers.

More information on the Living Murray initiative is available at:

Commonwealth of Australia