This is part 2, of a 3 part article by Norm Halliwell – missed part 1, youcan readhere

Dr. Kerezy has stated that he is very concerned that the Sleepy Cod(Oxyeleotris lineolatus) might begin (I say, WILL begin) to outcompetehabitats, food resources, and spawning sites of the Coopers Creek catfish(Neosilurius cooperensis) a Native species that grows to 450-600mm long, andwhich is a very tasty eating species, due to the Cod’s high growth andfecundity, that it will soon outcompete with the native catfish. This catfishis endemic to Cooper Creek, Thomson and Barcoo River systems where the Codwill soon be present due to an ill-advised and irresponsible agency or personreleasing it into such a vast ecosystem as Cooper Creek- Lake Eyre Basin. TheLake Eyre Basin is one of the most viable river systems on earth (Puckridge etal 1999).

Sleepy Cod are very similar in appearance and habits to the Asian Channa orSnakehead (Channa sp) which has spread as a feral species around the world.This fish is a very aggressive predator and quickly wipes out populations ofsmaller more vulnerable fish, amphibians and crustaceans alike.

I was recently advised that the ornamental finfish Siamese Fighting Fish(Betta splendens) had been released into the South Adelaide Floodplains in theNorthern territory, where it is apparently expanding its range. Now sure, thisis not a very good picture as far as the Aquarium Industry is concerned, as itis another finfish species that the authorities can continue to pour derisiononto Aquarists.

However, nowhere in the World has this species caused any damage to anyenvironment on earth, in which it was released, as the species is a very slowmoving finfish that needs to build a “bubble nest” to produce progeny and mustnot have any predators in its vicinity that could prevent this from happening.Therefore, this establishment will not cause any damage to the floodplain inthe N.T. and will NEVER get out of these floodplains, because it would simplybecome “fodder food” for all the other highly aggressive predators that existout of these floodplains. That is a fact, that is not being considered here,as the Siamese Fighting Fish (Betta splendens), does not have any particularability to withstand aggression levelled at it by Northern Territory predatorse.g., Grunters, Cod, Perch, Boney Tongue species, and catfishes species etc,and even rainbowfishes would certainly disrupt their breeding patterns bydestroying their “bubble nests”. It will become another food source for thethousands of bird species that roam these floodplains, and frog species thatpopulate this place and that is a fact!

So, please get your priorities right people, and place your attention where itshould be and that is on stocking agencies and the like for introducing nativeand non-native finfish into the environment. This establishment, whilstunfortunate, will never cause any damage in the area where it is found, andthat will be a proven FACT over time, due to the enormous amount of highlyaggressive predators in and around these floodplains in the NorthernTerritory.

I was amazed at the attitude of Fisheries personnel in the Northern Territory,when this establishment was notified to the general public, and our AquariumIndustry was blamed and shamed enormously by this establishment, and yet,there was no mention of the introduction of Silver perch (Bidyanus bidyanus),Yellow Belly Perch (Macquaria ambigua), and the Murray Cod (Maccullochellapeeli) into certain river systems in the Northern Territory. (Michael P Hammeret al 2019). Silver perch (Bidyanus bidyaus), was introduced into WhistleduckCreek on North side of Davenport ranges (in Duguid et al 2005), and GoldenPerch or a subspecies of this Perch was introduced to Whistleduck Creek, (inDuguid et al 2005) and Murray Cod into Hatches Creek on the Frew River (inDuguid et al 2005) with all of these three species being introduced outsidetheir

natural range, simply because they are good “on the end of a fishing line”.This kind of “ double standard” of placing tremendous pressure and blame onthe Aquarium Industry, whilst not placing the same pressure and blame onAquaculture finfish organisations and stocking agencies and the like, thathave introduced these predator species into the wild in the Northern Territorysimply has to cease right now!. Only time will tell, if these three speciesof finfish become established in the wild, or will they need further“stockings” by stocking agencies to sustain their numbers “in the wild”.

If the latter comes about, and I feel it will, then this whole situation aboutthe “dumping” of highly aggressive native and non-native, YES, non-nativefinfish (see the placement of Rainbow trout a Non­native finfish intoHazelwood Pondage once all Barra and ornamental finfish were removed, as itdid not have its range in Hazelwood pondage) will be considered quiteacceptable, as no impunity has ever been levied on these organisations forhaving done so, when our Aquarium Industry are held up to account, and withthreats that a levy will be placed onto imported finfish at the border tocover clean-up costs of removing any ornamental finfish from the wild.

Who determines the cost of such clean-ups??

This kind of heavy handed approach by introducing policies/regulations on oneIndustry, namely the Aquarium Industry, to prevent introductions to the wild,simply put, will not prevent ornamental finfish suddenly appearing in theenvironment. All this does is make ornamental finfish more expensive to theend user “joe citizen”, because these heavy handed extra financial burdens,will be passed onto the aforementioned and if this gets too exorbitant, thenhobbyists will soon realize that the species concerned will become a finfishworthwhile being bred in Australia, and therein the intension to preventimports will soon back-fire and the species will then be bred here in theirthousands rather than to allow their import at a lower cost factor which inthe long run will prevent them being bred here as the hobbyists would have tocompete with the imported price, which will in all probability they will not.E.g., Oscars (Astronotus ocellatus) that various Government persons wanted toban their import and declare them as noxious to which I stated that if youdid so, there were people who were prepared to dump their juvenile progeny ofthis species all around Queensland and into the Wet tropic region. The endresult of this case was that the Oscars were allowed to be imported, withoutrestriction of any kind, and it remains so to this day.

Sooty Grunter (Hephaestus fuliginosus) in its natural habitat grows to around40cm in length, but, in impoundments like Ungella Dam near MacKay,Koombooloomba Dam near Tully, Lake Julius near Mt Isa, Peter Faust Dam nearProserpine, Tinaroo and Copperlode Dams near Cairns, Lake Moonderra near MtIsa, plus the new Urrannah Dam project near MacKay when it goes ahead, willmost likely become another MECCA for this grunter specie, that can reach up to60cm and 6 kgs in weight, just to name a few places where the QueenslandGovernment and its stocking agencies have stocked over the past number ofyears. (Monthly Fishing Magazine March 22, 2019).

Sooty grunters (Hephaestus fuliginosus) have been translocated into 23 sites(maybe more by now) all over Queensland, to a point that it is now a pestspecies in Tinaroo Dam (R.McKay pers.comm), as it is causing catastrophicdamage in Tinaroo. Barramundi (Lates calcarifer) and Sooty Grunter (Hephaestusfuliginosus) are currently the most stocked species into Tinaroo Dam andelsewhere in Queensland with 594,230 Sooty grunters and 573,414 barramundifingerlings released with the

Sooty Grunter commencing in 1982 and the Barramundi in 1985, (according toQueensland DPI Database figures) with continued stocking to this day.

No assessments have ever been made as to these translocations and to thedamage these “dumpings” have and are still doing to other fish species,crustaceans and frog species in areas where they were released, simply becauseit would show the real damage that these introductions have done and continueto do to the environment, where they are released, as Governments do notwant to highlight such releases.

This could be described as environmental vandalism at its utmost andGovernments should be made to be responsible for such actions, and otherorganisations around the World should be made aware of such instance e.g.,World Wildlife Fund for Nature.

I have a couple of scenarios I would like to share with you right now, whereGovernment Fisheries Departments and/or stocking agencies are complicit intheir total disregard for other viewpoints and the environment as a WHOLE.

Scenario Number 1.

The Lake Eacham rainbowfish, (Melanotaenia eachamensis) has been declared asEXCTINCT from Lake Eacham on the Atherton tablelands in Queensland, due to aQueensland stocking agency deliberately introducing Archerfish (Toxoteschatareus), Boney Bream (Nematalosa erebi), Striped grunter (Amniatabapercoides), and Mouth Almighty (Glossamia aprion) into this Lake for “sportfishing”. These very voracious predators very soon eliminated the Rainbowfishfrom this Lake. See Pusey et al 2006 and Barlow et al 1987.

Luckily members of our Aquarium Industry captured alive some of therainbowfish and took them to Walkamin Research Station and Laboratories on theAtherton Tablelands. This effort saved the rainbowfish from total extinctionwith enough progeny produced in the Laboratory, so that they could be releasedback into this Lake where it belongs.

However, before this could be done, these predators had to be removed, andRolly McKay in personal communication with myself stated he advised theState’s Fisheries Department and/or stocking agencies to introduce “tagged”Barramundi (Lates calcarifer) into this Lake so the Barra could eliminate thepredators that should not have been there in the first place, and once thiswas done a fishing competition could commence to remove the “tagged” Barrafrom the Lake itself, and the tank bred rainbowfish from Walkamin ResearchLaboratories be re-introduced back into their natural habitat, where theybelong. Simple right!

Well not so simple ,, as this did not happen, as the authorities felt it wasnot necessary as this Lake had enough Native finfish present; ones that wereintroduced by them, that by adding another species would be defeating thepurpose of the original introduction. Very nice!!

An attempt was made in October 1989 when some 3000 captive bred rainbowfishesfrom Walkamin Station were released back into this Lake without any attempt toeliminate the previously released predators in the Lake itself. However, nospecimens of these rainbowfishes were collected in surveys taken during early1990, indicating they were all consumed by the introduced predators.

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