'Dam releases kill lungfish'

UP to 150 rare lungfish were being swept to their deaths through Wivenhoe Dam’s gates every time authorities released water, scientists said.

Two prominent Queensland lungfish researchers told brisbanetimes.com.au that Wivenhoe’s dwindling lungfish stock was an example of what would have happened to the vulnerable species had the controversial Traveston Crossing Dam gone ahead.

Anne Kemp, from the University of Queensland’s Centre for Marine Sciences and Professor Angela Arthington, from Griffith University’s Australian Rivers Institute, said the dam’s lungfish population was showing all the signs of the environmental stress predicted for Traveston, which forced the federal government to shut down the proposal.

In an August media release, natural resources minister Stephen Robertson said the discovery of eggs and a baby lungfish at Logans Inlet at Wivenhoe Dam were signs of “good Bligh Government management”. However, those lungfish are now dead and other larvae at Wivenhoe are being born with deformities.

Dr Kemp said all those eggs and young lungfish died because their parents lacked nutrients from foods in Wivenhoe. “Lungfish are really after things that are now missing from Wivenhoe which is small snails and small clams, that was their main food in the Brisbane River,” she said.

“These are simply missing from Wivenhoe and the lungfish we dissected last year had empty guts. Empty intestines, because there is nothing to eat.”

The long-term implication was the lungfish population would decline.

Dr Kemp has researched lungfish, known as the living fossil, in Queensland for 40 years and said there were many alarming facts not reported because information was strictly controlled. She contacted brisbanetimes.com.au after a rare lungfish was found in salty water at Breakfast Creek.

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