UQ Lake aquatic fauna collection

1 Nov 2022

A coordinated four-month operation has successfully relocated more than 600 native fish and 250 turtles as part of the UQ Lake renewal project.

When completed, the main lake will support a healthy and self-sustaining ecosystem and provide a habitat for native fauna species.

Stage one of this project has required dewatering the lake and relocation of 95 per cent of the lake’s aquatic fauna. Specialist aquatic ecologists, Ecosure, oversaw this part of the project.

“To achieve that extent of fauna collection was a great success and is down to the perseverance and creative problem solving of the team”, said Fabby Ernesta, Chief Property Officer, UQ Property and Facilities.

Ensuring safe relocation

Operating under relevant permits, the team of aquatic ecologists undertook collections prior to and throughout the draining process using specialist fauna-handling methods.

The aquatic fauna were temporarily housed and transported in appropriately sized, well oxygenated containers, with sufficient water levels and water changes.

Water levels were monitored regularly to reduce potential stress and ensure the health of the animals.

Senior Environmental Scientist, Natalie Toon said, “To minimise the impact, a staged and targeted approach was taken. Prior to dewatering, approximately 90 per cent of the turtles and 30 per cent of native fish where safely collected and relocated.

Throughout the dewatering process we continued to collect and relocate the remaining fish and turtles.”

An amazing discovery

One Australian (or Queensland) Lungfish, formally classed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, was discovered during the collection. The 127cm Lungfish required special procedures to ensure the safe capture and transfer to Roma Street Parklands Lake.

New habitats for fish, turtles and eels

More than 650 native fish were relocated, including 541 long-finned eel, 87 bony bream, 16 sea mullet, 2 eel-tailed catfish and the lungfish. A total of 251 turtles relocated were comprised of 3 different species, the main one being the Brisbane River turtle.

Three suitable habitats within the upper Brisbane River catchment were identified for the UQ Lakes fauna – near Kholo Road bridge, Burton’s bridge, and Savages Crossing.

Invasive species

The aquatic ecologist working on the project has estimated that less than 5 per cent of the fauna could not be collected and relocated. The majority of these were invasive species such as tilapia, carp, gambusia and goldfish, that were removed and ethically euthanised under regulations set out in the Queensland Biosecurity Act 2014.

The removal of the invasive fish from the lake will improve the lake’s ecosystem by minimising competition with native species for habitat and food, minimising the aggressive behaviour of invasives towards natives, and minimising the disturbance of the lake’s ecosystem (plant beds and water quality) caused by invasive species.

Since the lake was drained, a number of pest fish have surfaced. Every effort is being made to remove the fish as soon as practically possible, while ensuring the safety of those working on the project.

We appreciate the community’s patience and understanding as we continue to work on the renewal of UQ Lake and Amphitheatre area.