Australian Aquatic Biological

Australian aquatic biodiversity research and consultancy

Australian Crayfish Project

Australian Aquatic Biological Pty Limited- Project No: 100001

Code of Practice 2010

for Collecting Freshwater Crustaceans in

Queensland

 

Purpose of collecting

Code of Practice

The Australian Crayfish Project (ACP) and the Australian Aquatic Biodiversity Survey (AABS) involves full biological studies of freshwater aquatic habitats across the whole of Queensland, Australia; no specific locations can be given until after collection has occurred. This Code of Practice refers to the aquatic survey of the whole of Queensland. Every effort will be made to investigate as many sites as physically possible. We will attempt to capture freshwater crustaceans from every creek, stream, river, swamp, paddock and mountain. The Project is primarily focused on Freshwater Crayfish (ACP) but all other freshwater crustaceans captured during the project may also be catalogued. The majority of specimens will be captured and identified onsite and then released. Selected specimens (new distributions, populations or comparative material) will be retained & the following procedures will occur;

  1. Specimens will be preliminarily identified.
  2. Specimens will be weighed.
  3. Specimens will be measured.
  4. Specimens will be DNA tested to verify identification and relationships.
  5. Specimens will be euthanised by freezing.
  6. Specimens will be photographed (dead).
  7. Specimens will be vouchered.

All other species/specimens will be vouchered on site.

The collection of all samples by project collectors from natural populations for preservation is essential for:

  1. understanding the biology of animals throughout their ranges and over time;
  2. the recording of biotic diversity, over time and/or in different habitats;
  3. the establishment and maintenance of taxonomic reference material essential to understanding the evolution and phylogenetic relationships of crustaceans;
  4. for environmental status reports and impact studies.

Correct identification of the animals that are being studied is crucial to research and conservation programs. Incorrect or unresolved identifications can lead to misleading or incomplete conclusions. Taxonomy derived from studies of collections proved the identification basis for most types of biological research that is being conducted (physiological, anatomical, biochemical, behavioural or some other aspect of the animal’s biology), whether it occurs in the field or the laboratory. Conservation needs are impossible to assess without the ability to recognise and differentiate species.  Thus, identification although often taken for granted, is fundamental to any animal-based study and particularly important when studying native animals. Collections allow identification to be checked subsequent to the initial study, thus permitting verification or, if required, correction. In addition extension and elaboration of studies based on those specimens are possible when new questions arise and/or new analytical techniques become available. An important element of collections is the retention of voucher specimens, which allow problems to be addressed that cannot be resolved in the field, particularly when there is no other means to verify identification and where the taxonomy of a group is undergoing or expected to undergo change. Voucher specimens permit confirmation of the distribution and occurrence of a species at a certain place at a certain time. Preserved collections enable multiple uses of specimens thus often reducing the need for repetitive collecting. A researcher wanting to study the anatomy, taxonomy, reproductive biology or feeding habits of a particular species, can use specimens in the collection. Availability of specimens in collections saves the time, expense and avoids conservation issues associated with capturing fresh specimens. Once studied and returned to the collection the bank of knowledge for a particular specimen or specimens increases the value of that specimen and the collection as a whole. Where possible the AABio Collections will attempt to cover the range of variation in animal structure, life history, form, and distribution for as many species as possible in QLD.

General Principles

This code of Practice is consistent with other codes of practices developed for collecting animals. For example the WORLDWIDE DRAGONFLY ASSOCIATION recognises the following 4 principles:

  1. To respect life, in the form of species, communities and habitats.
  2. To comply with existing regulations
  3. To respect the need for scientific rigour
  4. To show, and expect to receive, tolerance of differing attitudes towards collecting biological material.

Those principles are broadly accepted here and expanded to include the following:

  1. Collection procedures are planned to avoid or minimise distress to the freshwater crustaceans targeted and other by-catch fauna and will always be conducted so as to attempt to leave the habitat and other species as undisturbed as possible consistent with sound research design.Collecting is targeted to fill biogeographical gaps, identify distribution and other defined research questions.
  2. The AABio collector/s must have knowledge of all regulations pertaining to the crustaceans under study (ie. threatened or endangered species) and the proposed areas of collection, and must ensure all permits necessary for carrying out collections are current. Collecting will be avoided in extremely public areas and conducted quietly to avoid observation/interaction with the general public.
  3. AABio collectors must have an understanding of the Animal Care & Ethics protocol with relation to freshwater aquatic fauna and all specimens will be treated with care and consideration ensuring no undue stress or injury. This is essential as some specimens collected will be returned alive for photography and cannot be injured or stressed.
  4. Collecting is planned with respect to the abundance of the species and the life-history stage involved so that numbers of individuals collected will not constitute a significant percentage of the population of any species in any bioregion. A total maximum of 12 specimens of any species/location is the limit.
  5. Where possible, collecting individuals of endangered or threatened taxa should be avoided. This can be accomplished by appropriate selection of areas (habitats) and sampling methods.
  6. When positive identifications can be made in the field and it is not necessary to retain all or part of the collection, live specimens can be released or DNA tested and then released back at the original site of capture.

Methods

Collection methods are chosen with consideration of the above principles.

Methods used by AABio collectors are listed below:

Scoop, meat on string and hand collecting.

Scoop nets

AAbio collectors use hand held scoop nets. These nets are 6mm mesh and approximately 320mm diameter on a wooden handle.

PLUS – They are hand held and only utilized in a selected area. Larger mesh nets (6mm) can allow selective capture without by catch. When non selective capture is utilised non targeted by-catch species captured can be returned without injury.

MINUS – Non targeted species may be captured accidentally;

INDICATED – For capture of small crustaceans in weedy or muddy areas (cannot be captured by other means).

CONTRAINDICATED – Only for capture of specimens greater than 6 mm. Smaller specimens will not be captured

Meat on String

Capture of freshwater crustaceans by meat or fish on string is an accepted practice of recreational fishers and the preferred method for AABio collectors.

PLUS – Meat on String only capture the target species. Individual specimens that take the meat can be selected or rejected without stress to the animal. Can be used to capture medium to large freshwater crayfishes and shrimps that are often not collected using other techniques. Little weight involved in carrying materials long distances to remote locations.

MINUS – Non selective.  Fish and eels may be attracted to the bait.

INDICATED – Can be used in any aquatic habitat, including those with poor visibility, macrophyte cover, snags etc.

CONTRAINDICATED – Not suitable for terrestrial crayfish habitats. (Engaeus species)

Hand collecting

Hand collecting is used for smaller juvenile crayfish, molluscs and gastropods, etc. (generally small species).

PLUS – Sampling is very selective and only the target habitat or species is collected.  Another preferred method for AABio collectors as valuable information on habitat and burrows is also accumulated.

MINUS – Requires high level of fitness and increase the danger from injury from non-target species (spiders snakes) also as with closer interaction with freshwater crayfish allows greater chance for injury to collector by targeted species. Habitat disturbance.

INDICATED – Can potentially be used in any suitable aquatic habitat.

CONTRAINDICATED – Difficult to use in areas with large rock and large water flows.

Conclusion.

The broader ACP & AABS involves collection of every species of freshwater crayfish, fish, gastropod and mollusc, etc. in Australia. The projects have multiple aspects that all revolve around the increase in the knowledge base of Australian Freshwater Fauna. It involves the photography of every species to give a full colour high resolution image of every species. The project also involves full DNA testing of every crayfish species in Australia, which will ultimately produce a full DNA database of all the crayfish species in Australia. Information collected on habitats, behaviour and distribution of species will be invaluable in the future. Specimens are lodged into the AABio collection, Australian Museum Collection, Carnegie Museum Collection, Queensland Museum Collection and Victorian Museum Collection. This is a major project with offshoots like the Field Guides, scientific papers and general articles adding to the long list of benefits.

Robert B McCormack

Project Leader 2010

Australian Crayfish Project

Researcher & Aquaculture Director, Australian Aquatic Biological Pty Limited