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Ancient fish found in the Macleay

LampreyThe Ecohealth program, coordinated by North Coast Local Land Services, has officially commenced in the Macleay.  The program coordinates existing monitoring activities of local and state government agencies resulting better reporting on the health of our catchments across the region.

The program undertakes a detailed assessment of water quality, macro-invertebrates, riparian vegetation, estuarine aquatic vegetation and the freshwater fish communities to determine an overall picture of catchment health.

Max Osborne, Senior Land Services Officer for North Coast Local Land Services said, "The freshwater fish sampling has almost been completed at 27 sites throughout the Macleay Basin with some extremely interesting results."

Dr Gavin Butler from Grafton Fisheries Centre said "While the structure of the fish community in the Macleay has largely been as expected, there has been one exception, with a lamprey (Mordacia sp.) sampled at a site in the mid-section of the Basin."

"Lampreys are an ancient fish and along with the hagfishes, are the sole surviving representatives of jawless vertebrates. What makes the capture so interesting is that lamprey are generally only recorded as far north as Newcastle, with only one or two captured previously in North Coast rivers and none in the Macleay Basin. Recent captures in Queensland suggest lampreys may be more widely distributed than previously thought, however, genetic analysis of the Qld samples has shown that at least some populations may be a previously undescribed species. DNA from the Macleay lamprey is currently being analysed and may provide "the missing link" between the southern and northern populations."

ElectrofishingThe Macleay Ecohealth project is the product of a partnership between the North Coast Local Land Services, Northern Tablelands Local Land Services, NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, University of New England, NSW Office of Water, Kempsey Shire Council, NSW Department of Primary Industries (Fisheries).

Photo caption:          Backpack electrofishing as part of the Ecohealth Program.                                                                   Lamprey, Mordacia sp. captured in the Macleay Basin in 2015.

Media contact:          Max Osborne, Senior Land Services Officer  Phone 6653 6710