Fishers Hooked on Habitat Health

Having counted down the days the weekend is finally here. And that means one thing – fishing! Reels and rods in hand, you and your mates set out before sunrise to your secret spot for a weekend on the water. As you excitedly cast off with your brand new hard body lure, you start waiting for a strike from a flathead; but it doesn’t come.


This could well be the reality of fishing’s future in regions across Australia as hundreds of years of habitat loss see dwindling fish numbers.

Once a thriving waterway, the reality that the Richmond River is now one of Australia’s most problematic rivers (see link here) has seen a group of northern New South Wales fishers come together to secure the health and future of their favourite sport.

These Ballina recreational fishers are now part of OzFish Unlimited, a national not-for-profit organisation that works to protect and restore fish habitat throughout Australia and support recreational fishers in these actions.

President of the Richmond Chapter John Larsson along with a few fellow fishers knew that the Richmond had some serious issues so decided it was time to take some action.

“It’s widely known that the Richmond River is the worst performing river in respect to water quality,” Mr Larsson said.

“A few recreational fishers have had great enjoyment in fishing over the years so I thought it was time to get involved with others that care such as the local Councils to try and do something about it.” Mr Larsson said.

Planting trees at Reedy Creek

OzFish Unlimited’s Richmond Chapter has launched the Richmond River Restoration Project, seeing members involved in resnagging and oyster and water monitoring efforts in the area, as well as working to options with local landholders for revival of the Tuckean Swamp.

The project is funded by New South Wales Department of Primary Industries’ Recreational Fishing Trust’s Flagship Habitat Action Grant program and partnering with Rous Country Council, Ballina and Lismore Councils, Office of Environment and Heritage, The Nature Conservancy and private donors. The Tuckean Swamp Study is one of OzFish Unlimited’s biggest projects nationally.
This area is one of the key contributors to both low dissolved oxygen and low pH both of which are bad for fish.

Mr Larsson said that UNSW researchers had been onsite during June as they continue to collect data from in around the Tuckean Swamp basin. “They’ll continue to collect data until they understand how the poor water quality is created and come up with a set of recommendations for improvements that will lead to a better fish outcome.” Mr Larsson said.

OzFish Unlimited’s Richmond Chapter has also been involved in oyster monitoring programs that have seen the discovery of a new sub species of oyster, that appears more resilient to the Richmond River’s poor water quality.


Additionally, members are working to improve Emigrant Creek’s fish habitat with funding from the NSW Department of Primary Industries’ Recreational Fishing Trust’s Habitat Action Grant program to allow the sinking of six new snag systems this July. Aimed to boost the estuarine fish habitat of an eroding bend, the snags with be monitored by OzFish Unlimited over the next twelve months.


“If we want to look after the fisheries, or improve the fishery, not only for own sakes but for future generations we need to restore fish habitat.” Mr Larsson said.

Mr Larsson said the message is simple for those who want to continue spending weekends fishing – act now.

“Get involved with OzFish, bring back habitat and do anything that will encourage the fishery back to life.” Mr Larsson said.

OzFish Unlimited works in partnership with BCF who provide the much-needed funds to keep us and our amazing volunteers swimming. If you’re a fisho passionate about the future of fishing – why not throw a line to to find out how you can get involved with your local Chapter.