Media Release: Department of Primary Industries
A substantial decline in the average annual catch of school prawns at Camden Haven on the North Coast of NSW has resulted in the estuary being listed as a research priority area.
A new research project on the estuary will be led by Department of Primary Industries (DPI) Fisheries Senior Research Scientist, Dr Matt Taylor, who said the project will determine whether School Prawns are still recruiting to certain areas of the Camden Haven estuary, and if estuarine conditions are adversely affecting prawn growth and survival.
“Fishers have reported that prawns have almost completely disappeared from some parts of the estuary, and since 2007 they have noticed prawns have been substantially smaller” Dr Taylor said.
It is thought that lower catches might be related to poorer water quality and the loss of habitat in parts of the estuary, a situation that is widespread in other estuaries on the NSW north coast where similar trends in prawn numbers and sizes have been also reported.
“We know from previous reports that the periodic presence of environmental conditions including low dissolved oxygen, low pH and the occurrence of heavy metals can produce lethal effects on prawns” said Dr Taylor.
These conditions can occur in estuarine waters as a by-product of acid-sulphate soil oxidation.
“However sub-lethal effects from degraded environmental conditions that compromise growth and reproductive output are largely unknown for prawns, so we want to understand the role this might be playing in the declining productivity of School Prawn stocks” Dr Taylor added.
The research project will commence in September 2015 and run for three years, with a final report due in December 2017.
It will guide future restoration activities in the Camden Haven estuary and act as a case study for other coastal estuaries in NSW.
The is a collaborative research project with the University of Newcastle, and funded by the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (FRDC) on behalf of the Australian Government. The project is further supported by DPI Fisheries, the Professional Fishermen’s Association, Hastings River Fishermen’s Cooperative, Port Macquarie- Hastings Council and North Coast Local Land Services.
Further information about the Camden Haven School Prawn research project is available at http://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/fisheries/habitat/rehabilitating/ekp