Home / Projects / Fisher Science / Saltwater Creek Cairns, QLD

Understanding our fish

Waterways around Cairns have been highly modified over the past 100 years with detrimental effects on fish and other aquatic life. We have been collecting information on fish assemblages and habitat condition across the Saltwater Creek catchment in Cairns over the past two years and we are using this information to review and assess current water management practices.

It is important that we improve our understanding of this complex aquatic environment so we can make informed decisions on how to improve waterway management in this and other urban creeks in the Wet Tropics.


Waterways and wetlands around Cairns support a variety of fish species

The waterways and wetlands of far north Queensland support a diverse range of fish species – to date the OzFish team have recorded 47 fish species in waterways of Saltwater Creek. Some of the more popular species fished for in waterways around Cairns include:
  • Barramundi (Lates calcarifer)
  • Mangrove jack (Lutjanus argentimaculatus)
  • Jungle perch (Kuhlia rupestris)


Conducting fish surveys and habitat assessments in urban waterways helps us to understand how they can be improved for fish. Our surveys also provide an opportunity for local fishers to better understand the waterways in their own backyard.

OzFish Cairns chapter are continuing to work with Cairns Regional Council to discuss the survey results and share their insights on how urban water management can be improved in the tropics. The project has so far focused on Saltwater Creek catchment, however there are opportunities for increasing the scope of this work in the future to other areas such as Freshwater Creek, the northern beaches and the lower Russell/Mulgrave.


JUNE 2023 | Restoring life of Saltwater Creek catchment in Cairns

Nestled within a bustling residential estate just north of Cairns Central Business District, the Saltwater Creek catchment is a vibrant urban ecosystem teeming with life. With its mix of residential areas, public spaces, and remnant natural habitats, this catchment holds significance for the local community. In an exciting development, the Albanese Labor Government has announced a significant investment of $1.5 million to enhance the health of Saltwater Creek, reflecting a commitment to preserving local waterways and protecting native species. The announcement came on World Environment Day, an international day dedicated to promoting global and local awareness and action to protect our environment.

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OCTOBER 2020 | Citizen scientists and researchers check fish populations in the Saltwater Creek catchment

A  team of  recreational fishers and researchers spent two days collecting baseline data on fish populations in the Saltwater Creek catchment to help understand our fish and environmental impacts. Recreational fishers put their castnetting skills to good use to monitor fish in Saltwater Creek. Saltwater Creek and other small coastal catchments in Cairns contain some of the highest diversity of native fish found in urban waters in Australia. The project team sampled eight sites across the catchment, including saltwater and freshwater environments. Volunteers used cast nets to collect fish and prawns.

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JUNE 2020 | Cairns anglers needed for urban fish surveys

A local citizen science project announced today for the Saltwater Creek urban catchment north of Cairns’ CBD will use fish surveys to improve urban waterway management through the help of recreational anglers. OzFish Project Manager for North & Far North QLD, Dr Geoffrey Collins said the invitation to engage anglers in citizen science acknowledges the value of the local recreational fishing community and their passion to see better urban water management.he project, titled “Saltwater Creek Waterway Management Plan” got the green light after receiving a Community Environment Program (CEP) grant. The project is a collaboration between Cairns Regional Council, James Cook University, Wet Tropics Waterways and Australia’s fishing conservation

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Community Environment Program grants are an Australian Government initiative that supports small-scale, on-ground projects to address local environmental priorities and strengthen communities.