Home / OzCast – A look below the surface / Episode five: Screen Time: How modern technology can help save hundreds of million of native fish every year.

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In episode five of OzCast, we look below the surface with fisheries scientist Dr Craig Boys to address what he considers one of biggest threats to native fish across Australia unscreened irrigation pumps. In this in-depth chat, Craig explains why 97 million fish are killed every year in NSW alone due to unscreened irrigation pumps.

With the understanding that there are additional loses in other states, his research paints a very grim picture for native fish survival. Craig explains the use of fish screens in the United States has been a requirement for decades but not here in Australia. However, not all is lost. There is technology and infrastructure that Aussie irrigators have at their disposal through years of research that can prevent 100 per cent of these deaths modern fish screens built for Aussie fish and Aussie rivers.  

Dr Craig Boys

Craig Boys is a distinguished fisheries scientist from New South Wales and one of the leading figures of screening technology in the country. With expertise in fish ecology, he serves as a Principal Research Scientist for the NSW Department of Primary Industries (Fisheries) and holds the position of Adjunct Associate Professor of Research at Charles Sturt University. 

Over the course of his impressive 20-year career, Craig has worked extensively across various regions, including Australia, South East Asia, Europe and America. He has dedicated his research efforts to collaborating with the primary industries sector, to enhancing environmental outcomes within these industries while supporting fish survival. 

One of Craig’s primary focus areas is in the design and operation of water infrastructure to facilitate safe fish passage and foster healthier fish populations. Throughout this episode, Craig sheds light on the different ways fish can be a victim to water infrastructure, such as weirs, regulators and hydropower plants, as well as the design of river diversions and pumps.  

Over the past 200 years, Australia has increasingly diverted more and more water from our inland rivers to maintain the demand of irrigation and agriculture. Craig has visited and worked on a variety of these diversions and he explains that the old-school pump design and gravity-fed diversions result in large amounts of debris, including logs, leaves and unfortunately fish in that collateral damage. In some instances, mature Murray cod as well as golden and silver perch have been ripped through the pumps, along with other natives. The pumps don’t recognise endangered species either. 

In acknowledging this problem, Craig draws from his years of experience to explain how we can improve the way native fish navigate and live alongside man-made structures which will improve the health of rivers and our native freshwater fish.   

Craig recounts some of the more significant days in his time working on fish screens, including collecting fish out of Burke irrigation dams in his university days, to travelling to the US and the UK to see how Australia can learn from other countries. Today, Craig is confident Australia is leading the world in fish passage and modern screening technology.  

Craig believes one the important elements of this story is highlighting the mutual benefits of fish screens for irrigators and native fish.  Craig explains that the past five years has seen a real shift as the benefits that screening provides to irrigators is a significant drawcard in growing the program across Australia.  This is an episode for farmers, fishers and regional towns looking for solutions to support the health of their local rivers. 

Like to watch as well as listen? Check out the video of the podcast below.


JULY 21 2023 | The Sleeping Giant Of River Restoration

Understanding the scale of the problem of unscreened pumps and diversions is only a recent phenomenon in Australia but new fish screening technology could be “the sleeping giant of river restoration”, according to distinguished fisheries scientist Dr Craig Boys.  The Principal Research Scientist for the NSW Department of Primary Industries (Fisheries) and Adjunct Associate Professor of Research at Charles Sturt University is one of the driving forces behind the introduction of fish screens in Australia. Dr Boys tells the tale of how screening is reinvigorating our waterways on the latest episode of OzCast, the official podcast of OzFish Unlimited, Australia's fishing conservation charity.  Unlike the irrigation pumps and gravity-fed diversions that have traditionally...

Find Out More

For more information, head over to the Fish Screens Australia website. This website will keep you up to date on all the latest news and developments on fish screens across Australia.

This episode of OzCast has been supported by the Australian Government’s CRC Program and BCF – Boating, Camping, Fishing.