An assessment of the effectiveness of a vertical-slot fishway for non-salmonid fish at a tidal barrier on a large tropical/subtropical river

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Fishways for salmon in temperate rivers have often been successful, but salmonid-type fishways for non-salmonid species in tropical and subtropical rivers have frequently failed. This study assessed the effectiveness of modifying a salmonid-type pool-and-weir fishway into a vertical-slot design on a tidal barrage on the subtropical Fitzroy River, in Queensland, north-eastern Australia. In 38 paired samples of the top and bottom of the fishway, over 16 months, 29 fish species and over 23000 fish were collected at a maximum rate of 3400 per day. This study shows much greater potential for success with a vertical-slot fishway as relatively few fish negotiated the original pool-and-weir design. Common species using the vertical-slot fishway included blue-catfish (Arius graeffei [Ariidae]), bony herring (Nematalosa erebi [Clupeidae]), striped mullet (Mugil cephalus [Mugilidae]), barramundi (Lates calcarifer [Centropomidae]), and long-finned eels (Anguilla reinhardtii [Anguillidae]). Freshwater shrimp (Macrobrachium australiense [Palaemonidae]), juvenile crabs (Varuna litterata [Grapsidae]) and long-finned elvers did not ascend the full length of the fishway and specific fishways for these species are recommended. Fish between 25 and 640 mm in length ascended the fishway, although the passage of smaller size classes of immature fish was restricted and this may be important for the sustainability of these migratory populations. The barramundi (200-640 mm) which ascended the fishway were all immature fish. However, during a period of low river flows enlarging the width of the vertical-slot from 0.15 to 0.45 m only encouraged a small number of larger fish (890 mm maximum length) to enter. The strong diel movement patterns of many species will need to be considered in future fishway design. Blue-catfish could ascend the fishway in 2 h, but many fish remained in the fishway and this behaviour may cause crowding and a reduction in fishway capacity. Further work is needed to assess the proportion of fish finding the fishway entrance. However, the findings suggest that vertical-slot fishways with lower water velocities and turbulence than salmonid fishways have great potential to pass the diverse migratory fish fauna of subtropical and tropical rivers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)575-590
Number of pages16
JournalRiver Research and Applications
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1999


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