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Secret life in our waterways unveiled

A new environmental monitoring program is peeling back the curtain on the secret life of fish and other aquatic animals living in NSW’s coastal rivers.

Chief Knowledge Officer for Water, Mitchell Issacs from Department of Planning and Environment said three scientists are collecting water samples from more than 30 rivers along the coast of NSW so we can better understand and support the creatures which call them home.

“A small sample of water can reveal a surprising amount of information, including what creatures are calling the river home at different stages of their life and even at times what wildlife may be drinking or living near the stream,” Mr Issacs said.

“The animals will be detected through Environmental DNA which they naturally leave behind, meaning there’s no need for our scientists to catch or even see the aquatic life to confirm their presence.

“All of this can help to inform water management, such as ensuring fish highways stay well connected so coastal species like the Australian Bass can make a sea change travelling from rivers in the Tablelands down to coastal estuaries.”

The team have already collected more than 100 samples from rivers and waterways across the Lower North Coast, Hunter, Central Coast and Bega Valley.

The plan is to sample upwards of 180 sites in total and work will soon move into rivers in the Clarence Valley and next year expand further across both the North and South Coast.

Mr Issacs said the more we know about the species that call our rivers home the better we can set the rules in water sharing plans to balance water use and protecting aquatic life.

“The data will be particularly helpful to assess the location of threatened species like platypus, the Macquarie Perch and the Eastern Freshwater Cod,” Mr Issacs said.

“Once we receive the results from our testing, a full list of detected species will be made public so other agencies and groups can utilise it for other research projects and conservation efforts.”

For more information on the departments various surface water science programs visit Surface water science.

Scientists are collecting water samples.
Three scientists are collecting water samples from more than 30 rivers along the coast of NSW.