Australian Aquatic Biological

Australian aquatic biodiversity research and consultancy

East Gippsland Survey Season Commences 2016

Euastacus crassus

Euastacus crassus upper Murray River

The high country of East Gippsland is a difficult area to survey as the window of opportunity is small. In summer it’s too hot and subject to bushfires and road closures. In winter, it’s too cold and the crayfish have retired to their deep burrows being extremely difficult to find. This just leaves the spring and autumn crayfish survey season.

Our surveys in East Gippsland are targeted to answer a number of questions we have concerning the species present and their distributions. Unfortunately, the more we research the more questions are raised and we don’t seem to be making much forward progress despite accumulating huge amounts of new information.

 

1st Survey

The first survey was conducted in March by Craig Burnes and Rob McCormack, of the upper Murray and upper Snowy River tributaries in the Victorian Alpine National Park.

New Euastacus crassus Little River

New Euastacus crassus Little River

They surveyed the start of the Murray River from its most eastern and southern point in the Alpine National Park of Victoria. They were looking for Euastacus rieki, Euastacus claytoni and Euastacus crassus which occur in tributaries of the Murray River further north. What they found most closely matched Euastacus crassus in morphology but had a gastric mill count closer to Euastacus claytoni. Morgan 1997 did record lower TAP counts from specimens further west from the Bogong High Plains but genetic analysis will be very interesting.

Gastric mill upper Murray River

Gastric mill upper Murray River

Craig and Rob also surveyed the adjoining drainages of the upper Snowy River. The Little, Suggan Buggan and Buchan rivers were surveyed providing comparative material. Specimens from the Little River a tributary of the Snowy River for example vary in morphology but the gastric mill more closely resembles the norm for Euastacus crassus.

Gastric mill upper Little River (Snowy Rv)

Gastric mill upper Little River (Snowy Rv)

Specimens collected from each drainage will be included in a broad genetics study including specimens from the Tambo River in Victoria and the new population of E. crassus discovered in the Shoalhaven drainage. Stay tuned for results.

For further information on Euastacus crassus from the upper Murray & Snowy rivers see http://www.austcray.com/2016/04/alpine-national-park-victoria-new-euastacus-crassus/

 

2nd Survey

Surveys of the eastern tributaries of the Snowy River have been completed and resulted in the redescription of Euastacus diversus.

Coughran J, McCormack RB and Fetzner Jr. JW (2015). Re-description of the Orbost spiny crayfish, Euastacus diversus Riek 1969 (Decapoda: Parastacidae), in eastern Victoria, Australia. Freshwater Crayfish 21(1): 185-197.

In that paper we identified the species occurring within the next drainage east – the Bemm River as being a potentially new species. This has generated a species specific project, requiring the surveying of the Bemm and adjoining eastern drainages.

As part of this project an ACP survey team gathered to survey the Arte River drainage a major tributary of the Bemm River. We hadn’t surveyed this river before so it was essential information needed as part of the project to help increase our knowledge base.

Andrew Lincoln, Craig Burnes, Rob McCormack, Joe Henderson, Jo Edwards, Jim Reside

The Team – Andrew Lincoln, Craig Burnes, Rob McCormack, Joe Henderson, Jo Edwards, Jim Reside

The team consisted of Andrew Lincoln, Craig Burnes, Rob McCormack, Joe Henderson, Jo Edwards and Jim Reside. We met up in Orbost and Kuark Forest to survey the tributaries of the Arte River.

Euastacus sp. Arte Rv - Spec 5737

Euastacus sp. Arte Rv – Spec 5737

We surveyed a large number of streams and were successful in finding Engaeus, Euastacus sp, and Euastacus kershawi. We were specifically targeting Euastacus sp and the specimens collected will be used for our morphological and genetics program for this species. Further surveys are needed in the other tributaries of the Bemm and adjoining drainages, hence, this project will continue for some time.

Euastacus sp. Arte River, Victoria

Euastacus sp. Arte River, Victoria. Spec 5739

My thanks to the team members who guided us through the back roads of the forest despite many of them being disused and overgrown.

The survey convoy held up by a blocked road

The survey convoy held up by a blocked road

Clearing the forest road

Clearing the forest road

The 3rd Survey

Was conducted by Craig Burnes and Rob McCormack of tributaries of the Cann and Genoa Rivers. This survey again created more questions than answers. We were expecting to find Euastacus bidawalus and we were successful in finding them with the ones we found matching the morphological description of E. bidawalus. Then however, we found specimens in the Genoa River catchment that did not match the current description. This is a dilemma, is this just morphological variation between populations 1 km apart or two separate species. Instead of answers again more questions and further research needed.

Euastacus bidawalus, Cann Rv, (Spec 5751)

Euastacus bidawalus, Cann Rv, (Spec 5751)

Euastacus sp, Genoa Rv, (Spec 5755)

Euastacus sp, Genoa Rv, (Spec 5755)

It’s always a pleasure investigating the East Gippsland forests and streams; we will be back as soon as we can to do it all over again.

Cheers

Rob McCormack

 

 

Orbost Spiny Crayfish paper finally published

Euastacus diversus from Ellery Creek (Brodribb drainage) showing 2 marginal squamal spines

Euastacus diversus from Ellery Creek (Brodribb drainage) showing 2 marginal squamal spines

Started in 2005 the quest to rediscover the Orbost Spiny Crayfish Euastacus diversus has been a long and intriguing journey cumulating in the publication of this paper.

This story began back in 1959 when one of Australia’s foremost expert on freshwater crayfish at that time, Edgar Riek, discovered this small freshwater crayfish species in the east Gippsland region of Victoria. Then in 1969 he described the species and named it Euastacus diversus. Since that day this crayfish has remained a rare and elusive species.

In 1986, the then current expert on the genus Euastacus, Gary Morgan, searched for this species but was unable to find any in the wild. As a consequence he redescribed the handful of original specimens collected by Riek in 1959 that are held at the Australian Museum. Gary Morgan’s detailed description, published in the Memoirs of the Museum of Victoria 30th May 1986, was the latest scientific publication on this species and forms the basis of all current information and opinions until now.

In 2005, the Australian Crayfish Project (ACP) was started, involving one of the largest projects researching freshwater crayfish ever seen in Australia. Between 2005 and 2007 we also failed to find any specimens of Euastacus diversus for the type locality general area 40 miles north of Orbost. Then in 2007 we changed our methods and successfully started finding more and more specimens. Up to 2011 a considerable number of E. diversus and other Euastacus species were found in the wild. The project has been very successful in finding this and other crayfish species, and large areas of southern NSW and eastern Victoria were systematically biologically surveyed specifically for freshwater crayfish. We found Euastacus specimens everywhere and most did not match the description for the known species leading to much confusion. However, genetic analysis by the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in the USA helped clarify the situation resulting in the thorough redescription of E. diversus and the discover of a number of new species.

Euastacus diversus redescription 2015

Euastacus diversus redescription 2015

The research culminated in this paper titled “Re-description of the Orbost Spiny Crayfish, Euastacus diversus Riek 1969 (Decapoda: Parastacidae), in Eastern Victoria, Australia” published in the journal “Freshwater Crayfish”. The paper redescribes Euastacus diversus to include the Bonang River crayfish (previously thought to be a new species).

The Bonang River crayfish from the most northern extent of distribution

The Bonang River crayfish from the most northern extent of distribution

The Bonang taxon represent a morphologically distinct population of Euastacus diversus that is genetically 1.95% divergent from the E. diversus type locality populations.

Euastacus diversus from Riddle Creek

Euastacus diversus from Riddle Creek

The research extends the distribution of the species to the Brodribb, Yalmy, Rodger and Bonang River drainages at elevations ranging from 350 – 950 m a.s.l., with an overall Extent of Occurrence of 465 km2. Research continues on E. diversus which will surely increase the Extent of Occurrence. Research also continues on the new Euastacus species and hopefully the first of the new species descriptions will be published later this year.

Citation:

Coughran J, McCormack RB and Fetzner Jr. JW (2015). Re-description of the Orbost spiny crayfish, Euastacus diversus Riek 1969 (Decapoda: Parastacidae), in eastern Victoria, Australia. Freshwater Crayfish 21(1): 185-197.

 

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An expedition to Victoria –November 2015

I had the pleasure of traveling to Victoria to present a lecture on “The Freshwater Crayfish of Victoria” to the Bendigo Field Naturalists Club. They were great crowd and I had a great time chatting with them.

Bendigo Field Naturalist Club

Bendigo Field Naturalist Club

Whilst in the Bendigo area I sampled the local creeks and streams, only finding yabbies Cherax destructor.

Cherax destructor from Bendigo

Cherax destructor from Bendigo Creek

The following day I had an aquaculture consult in the Seymour area and whilst there I took the opportunity to sample the local creeks and streams. Again abundant Cherax destructor but then a very nice surprise. I found a colony of Engaeus lyelli. This was excellent as I also managed to capture berried females, something I haven’t come across in this species before.
For a full article on Engaeus lyelli “Click Here”

Engaeus lyelli

Engaeus lyelli

Travelling south to the Otways the following day I sampled creeks, streams and rivers, finding mostly Cherax destructor and glass shrimp Paratya australiensis. One nice surprise in the Campaspe River were Australian Basket Shell Mussels Corbicula australis. They are a widespread and common species but usually hard to find so finding them easily was a pleasing result.

Australian Basket Shell Mussel

Australian Basket Shell Mussel

Further south around Waurn Ponds another nice surprise was the capture of a berried female Engaeus merosetosus. Enagaeus merosetosus are relatively common and widespread in that area however, females with eggs are exceptionally rare so the capture of one greatly increases the general knowledge on the species. For a full article on Engaeus merosetosus “Click Here”.

Engaeus merosetosus

Engaeus merosetosus

I spent several days at Otway Crays, Bellbrae, Victoria with the owner Steve Chara. Steve is a mate and we spent a few days together surveying the general area. Mostly we were finding Cherax albidus and Geochara gracilis. Both species were abundant and we found thousands. For a full article on Geocharax gracilis “Click Here”.

Geocharax gracilis

Geocharax gracilis

We also found Engaeus sericatus at a number of sites.

Engaeus sericatus

Engaeus sericatus

Steve Chara is one of Victoria’s largest yabby farmers and I spent some time with him sorting, grading and packaging yabbies.

Cherax albidus in a holding net

Cherax albidus in a holding net

Pumkin used to feed Cherax albidus

Pumpkin used to feed Cherax albidus

Steve had a bi-coloured yabby in a tank, this is a rare treat as these are extremely rare animals. For an article on Bi-Coloured Crayfish “Click Here”.

Bi-coloured Cherax albidus

Bi-coloured Cherax albidus

Unfortunately the expedition was over all too soon and I had to head back to the office.

2015 Expedition to Far North Queensland

Cocoa Creek, Townsville, just on dusk

Cocoa Creek, Townsville, just on dusk

Early September 2015 four volunteers on the Australian Crayfish Project (ACP) met at Townsville Queensland for a crayfish research expedition. We met at Cocoa Creek, on Cape Cleveland approximately 17 km east of Townsville. We all got there pretty much together just before sunset. Cocoa Creek is a small muddy deep water creek flowing through the mangroves. Last time we were there it was full of fish, mudcrabs and rumour had it one small (1.2 m) crocodile.

Karl with 4 mudcrabs in first 35 minutes

Karl with 4 mudcrabs in first 35 minutes

As soon as camp was set up we started having a fish just on dark. Karl dropped in a couple of crab traps and after 35 minutes he pulled the first out and jackpot, 4 mudcrabs. We failed to catch many fish that night but what was biting we biting midges or sand flies. They were in abundance and a major hassle as nothing repelled them.

The following morning Karl and I headed for Mt Elliott whilst Paul and Phil held the fort and stayed at base camp on Cocoa creek.

Base camp, hiking hammocks between trees

Base camp, Mt Elliot, hiking hammocks between trees

Karl and I made it to the base of Mt Elliot at the falls, set up a camp and then started climbing the mountain. We made it well up and then back that day, just blazing a trail and flagging a track ready for the early start the following morning.

The base of the Falls, Alligator Creek

The base of the Falls, Alligator Creek

We were climbing Mt Elliott to research the Mt Ellliot Crayfish Euastacus bindal one of Australias most endangered and rarest freshwater crayfish species with a small knowledge base.

Euastacus bindal

Euastacus bindal

The ACP has been researching this species since 2008 and this is our 5th expedition up the mountain. Once again we gathered more information which has been added to our paper and eventually we will publish our findings. Unfortunately, we will need further expeditions up the mountain so stay tuned.

Base camp Koombooloomba Dam

Base camp Koombooloomba Dam

After Mt Elliot we headed to Koombooloomba Dam, some 28 km south south east of Ravenshoe, Queensland. The dam has been constructed on the Tully River and we set up a base camp there to research the Cardwell Hairy Crayfish Euastacus yigara. One of the least known and researched Euastacus crayfish species in Australia. Our research on E. yigara was very successful and eventually we will publish our results. For an article on E. yigara “Click Here”.

Euastacus yigara

Euastacus yigara

Paul brought his boat which we launched on Koombooloomba Dam and we were able to access all the feeder streams that drain into the dam. We would motor up to the end of a bay, hop out and follow the stream into the rainforest and research E. yigara.

Paul Van der Werf, digging an E. yigara burrow complex

Paul Van der Werf, digging an E. yigara burrow complex

Success, an adult female Euastacus yigara

Success, an adult female Euastacus yigara

We also found both in the dam streams and those we surveyed in the wider area, Cherax parvus, Zebra Shrimp, another Caridina shrimp species, Rainbow Fish and Trout Gudgeons.

Euastacus parvus

Euastacus parvus

Northern Trout Gudgeon Mogurnda mogurnda

Northern Trout Gudgeon Mogurnda mogurnda

Zebra Shrimp Caridina zebra

Zebra Shrimp Caridina zebra

Between researching crayfish we also had a fish in the dam. Sooty Grunter were plentiful and we caught quite a few for dinners at night after a hard days cray chasing.

Phil with a nice Sooty Grunter

Phil with a nice Sooty Grunter

For 5 days we researched E. yigara then we moved to Hinchinbrook Island.

Our base camp at Lucinda

Our base camp at Lucinda

We made camp at Lucinda opposite the southern end of Hinchinbrook Island in the “Wanderers Holiday Village”. Camping was at a premium and we only just managed to get a space squeezed in between caravans. This was our base camp for daily expeditions across the bay to Hinchinbrook Island. We would motor across to Hinchinbrook then follow the creeks up into freshwater and survey for freshwater crayfish.

Paul foreground and Karl background surveying a freshwater stream of Hinchinbrook Island

Paul foreground and Karl background surveying a freshwater stream of Hinchinbrook Island

It was a great trip and we will do it again next year. I drove 5,500km to get there and back so 2 days each way just gettings there. Hopefully, next year we will do a fly in and fly out trip.

Cheers

Rob

Yabby Farming Field Day – Karuah NSW – “Yabby Dabba Doo” Yabby Farm – 8th August 2015

A Yabby Dabba Doo/CSIRO Super Yabby

A Yabby Dabba Doo/CSIRO Super Yabby

NSW Aquaculture Association in partnership with “Yabby Dabba Doo” Yabby Farm and Aquatic Engineering Australia is holding a yabby farming field day on Saturday the 8th August, 2015. Everyone is invited to share in this education and information day.

The days theme, is the commercial aquaculture of yabbies (Cherax destructor) in purpose built earthen yabby ponds. Join us around the ponds to see how they are constructed to suit the yabbies requirements for maximum production. These are not farm dams but commercial yabby ponds. See how to construct commercial earthen ponds, control their overflows and make the ponds gravity drainable at minimal cost.

Cooked, "Yabby Dabba Doo" Yabbies

Cooked, “Yabby Dabba Doo” Yabbies

Once yabbies are captured they need to be held ready for sale. You need somewhere to store yabbies for a week or two ready for sale and be able to purge the yabbies on demand. See a simple commercial purging recirculating aquaculture system in operation; see how it’s constructed and how you can build yours at home. Discuss the pros and cons of this basic construction with Paul Van der Werf, one of Australia’s leading experts on recirculating aquaculture systems.

Commercial Yabby Ponds

Commercial Yabby Ponds

When you start growing commercial quantities of yabbies at densities far greater than that which occurs naturally in nature then perimeter fencing of your ponds becomes an important priority. Commercial yabby ponds need external perimeter fencing to ensure yabbies don’t wander from the ponds and to keep predators like turtles and eels from getting into the ponds. Join us to see the fencing and discuss the options and requirements.

One of the major predators of yabbies are birds. The main culprits are cormorants or shags which can devastate commercial yabby ponds. The easiest remedy is to net your ponds. Join us on the day around the ponds to see the bird netting erected over the ponds. See how it’s erected, and discuss alternatives with the experts.

First thing in the morning we will be setting traps in the ponds. We will be using a variety of traps from those used by recreational fishers to the special traps only used by commercial farmers. The traps will range in size from the small box traps for catching small bait yabbies to the large super traps for catching bulk loads of 20-50 kgs/trap. Later in the day we will harvest the yabbies from the traps. See how it’s done and what you can catch in the different traps.

A commercial pond with bird netting over and hides within the pond

A commercial pond with bird netting over and hides within the pond

For commercially viable yabby production you need to add shelter to the ponds. Yabbies only use the floor of the pond which limits the number of yabbies which can physically survive in the pond. If you add shelter to the pond you can double, triple or quadruple the production from that pond. Join us to see the types of shelters used and how they are set for easy removal from the ponds and additionally used for juvenile harvesting etc.

Small Bait Yabbies

Small Bait Yabbies

A clean reliable water supply is an essential requirement for any commercial aquaculture facility. Aquatic Engineering Australia will be demonstrating their “Ultra Filtration Mobile Unit”. Join us to see the unit in operation with demonstration of its sediment removal capability. See how this demonstration unit can turn turbid dam water into clear, clean water.

Our Aquaculture Policy Officer from Fisheries NSW will be there to discuss the government requirements in getting started. Find out all you need to know and it’s a great opportunity make contact with the man you will need to lodge your application with.

Once you have grown and harvested your crop of yabbies, you will need to sell it. See the different size yabbies the different markets require. Discuss the markets for each size and grade of yabby, and the current market prices for your produce. Learn where you can sell yabbies and what you can expect in return for your produce.

This is a great opportunity to meet with some of Australia’s leading industry experts. All are there to answer all your questions. (Industry consultants can charge $100-200/hr for consultancy; you have them there at no extra charge so make good use of them).

There will be drinks and a sausage sizzle or similar after the event so another opportunity to stay back and network.

Key speakers include:

Jamie Williams, Owner of “Yabby Dabba Doo” Yabby Farm and “Marron-U-Wanna” Marron & Koi Farm in WA.

Rob McCormack, Research & Aquaculture Director, Australian Aquatic Biological P/L and Secretary NSWAA.

Paul Van der Werf, Director, Earthan Group and President NSWAA.

Graeme Bowley, Aquaculture Policy Officer, Fisheries NSW.

Chris Young, Aquatic Engineering Australia (AEA)

Tickets are available now, only limited attendees so order now before sold out.

Members $35

Members Partners $15

Non Members $50

Non Members Partners $25

Plus a $1 fee/ticket

Pre registration is essential.

Bring your gum boots and umbrella if its wet.

To Purchase Event Tickets “Click Here”

To download and Event Program “Click Here”

As secretary of the NSWAA  l’ll be running a Yabby Farming information and education day at “Yabby Dabba Doo“, hope to see you all there.