Hunt on for aquatic life using eDNA in our rivers

River health is one of Janelle Saffin MP's top priorities and she welcomes state-of-the-art technology to track how well fish and other wildlife are doing in North Coast rivers and creeks over the next year.

WORK is ramping up to uncover the secret lives of fish and wildlife that call our rivers home, with water testing kicking off in 20 new sites across Lismore, Byron Bay, Casino and Grafton.

Using state-of-the-art technology, experts from the NSW Department of Planning and Environment are searching more than 250 coastal creeks and rivers across the state for Environmental DNA (eDNA) – pieces of microscopic genetic material naturally left behind by creatures living in or near the water.

A single water sample can reveal which species are present in different parts of our rivers and how they move during their lifecycles – all without scientists having to physically disturb, catch or even see the wildlife.

The data will help uncover vital clues about all river-dwelling creatures, but the team especially hopes to shed light on threatened species including Platypus, Macquarie Perch, Australian Grayling and the Eastern Freshwater Cod.

The results will help the NSW Government make evidence-based water management decisions to better support the environment and aquatic life.

This could include things like ensuring fish passages stay well connected to support breeding and migration or setting water sharing plan rules to better balance the needs of the environment and water users.

Experts have already sampled more than 140 sites across the state, including in waterways across Greater Sydney, the Clarence Valley, the Lower North Coast, the Hunter, the Central Coast, the South Coast and the Bega Valley.

More than 250 sites will be sampled by the end of 2024, and the team will continue testing sites at least once every two years as part of the Department’s ongoing Environmental Outcomes Monitoring and Research Program.

A full list of detected species will be published once results are ready to help aid other water management, research and conservation efforts.

For more information, visit the Department’s website: Surface Water Science

Member for Lismore Janelle Saffin said:

“I’m pleased to see teams hitting the ground across the North Coast. Ours is a unique region, home to highly diverse flora and fauna, including threatened species like the Platypus and the Eastern Freshwater Cod. In fact, the Northern Rivers is the most biologically diverse area in the state.

“The more we know, the better we can balance our water use and deliver outcomes supporting fish, wildlife, and the environment.”

Minister for Water Rose Jackson said:

“This is cutting-edge water science, helping us shape water policy to boost the health of our river systems and the many species that call them home.

“This research will contribute to the large body of hard evidence underpinning the state’s water management tools, like regional water strategies, water sharing plans and the analysis informing infrastructure decisions.”

ON SITE: David Ryan, Senior Eco-hydrologist with the Department of Planning and Environment, carrying out river testing on the Wilson River at Goonengerry.