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Restoring habitat to Watt Creek’s fish

Watt Creek projectNambucca’s estuary fish now have more habitat in Watt Creek, located between Macksville and Nambucca Heads, thanks to two generous landholders, North Coast Local Land Services and New South Wales’ recreational fishers.

The project was made possible through a successful funding application submitted by North Coast Local Land Services to the NSW Recreational Fishing Trust’s Habitat Action Grant program.  The Habitat Action Grant program redistributes revenue collected from recreational fishing licences to improve recreational fishing opportunities by improving fish habitat.

Max Osborne, Senior Land Services Officer with North Coast Local Land Services said of the project, “The Watt Creek project has removed an old floodgate structure that was impeding fish migration to the entire Watt Creek sub-catchment.

“Removing this structure has enabled fish to once again freely migrate in and out of this section of the Nambucca estuary with each tide, providing fish access to approximately 1.8 km of creek and approximately 13.5 ha of mangrove and saltmarsh areas which are important fish habitat.” Max said.

The Watt Creek Project is also helping fund the installation of over 4.4 km of fencing to exclude cattle from floodplain vegetation, freshwater wetlands, mangroves and saltmarsh.  Long term access by cattle to this section of the Nambucca estuary has caused significant damage.

Max continued, “Fencing will really improve the condition of these vegetation communities.

“It will reduce creek bank erosion and the disturbance of acid sulfate soils, as well as improving the condition of the soil across this area by reducing compaction and “pugging” caused by stock hooves.”

Watt Creek projectThe water quality and health of the aquatic ecosystem in Watt Creek will be greatly improved and the area should “self-rehabilitate” quite quickly after the works have been completed. Preventing cattle from defecating in the creek will assist in reducing the faecal bacterial contamination in the estuary which is not only beneficial for oyster production, it also improves the habitat for aquatic animals that live in the sediments such as crabs, prawns, nippers (yabbies), clams and worms.

The project has been co-funded by WetlandCare Australia with funding secured from NSW Environmental Trust. Nambucca Shire Council contributed by covering the cost for the disposal of over 16 tonnes of concrete floodgate structure that was removed. Most importantly, the project would not have been made possible without the support of the two landholders who have returned non-agriculturally productive sections of their property to the environment, as well as providing cash and in-kind contributions to make the project possible.

This project is one of several wetland rehabilitation projects that are currently being implemented by North Coast Local Land Services, through funding from the NSW Government’s Catchment Action NSW.

A field day to showcase the project is scheduled for the 20 May to coincide with World Fish Migration Day www.worldfishmigrationday.com.

If you would like to attend you must register. Participants will meet at the Watt Creek boat ramp, off the Pacific Highway, near Florence Wilmont Drive, North Macksville at 10:30 am. A barbeque lunch will be provided and, for catering purposes, bookings are essential. Please contact Max Osborne at North Coast Local Land Services on 6563 6710 or by email to max.osborne@lls.nsw.gov.au by 17 May.

Media contact:    Max Osborne  Phone 6563 6710

Photo captions: Removing the fish migration barrier in Watt Creek