Volunteers from OzFish Unlimited will be habitat mapping the lower catchment of the Bellinger River on Saturday December 12, and they're calling on others to bring their boats and kayaks to Mylestom and join in.
Mapping habitat helps understand the river's capacity to maintain fish populations and also identifies gaps in connectivity fish have to manage when swimming up or down the river to feed, breed or rest from tidal currents.
"We had our first meeting at Sawtell RSL and a number of recreational fishers who turned up had a strong connection to the Bellinger River," Chantelle Whyte from the Coffs chapter of OzFish said. "These fishers know these waterways like the back of their hand and their opinion is valuable."
The group will use fish finders to map riparian zones, seagrasses, shellfish reefs and snags in the river.
"Mapping is very important because as fish venture from one habitat to another they are exposed to predation from other fish or run the risk of never making it upstream to restock other areas of the river.
"The success of good quality recreational fishing is heavily dependent on habitat. These seagrasses, shellfish reefs and snags we will map are homes, food and shelter for target species of fish or food sources these fish feed on."
Once the area is mapped, the volunteers will work with fisheries habitat experts within OzFish to determine areas that may lack connectivity or suitable habitat for various species.
"We have a lot of interest from recreational fishers already, which is great to see. But we can definitely do with some more. We'd encourage them to join OzFish and bring their boats, canoes, kayaks and fish finders if they have them to help us out.
"It's a great opportunity to meet like-minded recreational fishers and to hear their thoughts about how we can restore our waterways to help improve our fishing experiences," Ms Whyte said.
The mapping will launch from Mylestom boat ramp on December 12 from 9 am. Datasheets, training and health and safety will be provided to all involved.
The need for fish habitat connectivity is critical and this project is funded by the NSW Government's Environmental Trust Growing River Stewardship Project and is just another way OzFish volunteers and community partners are working towards a healthy, vibrant and more productive fishery.
If you would like to know more about the project or get involved become a member of OzFish online at www.ozfish.org.au or contact 1800 431 308.
- OzFish Unlimited is a national environmental conservation charity established to improve the health of our rivers, lakes and estuaries. It is a member-based organisation dedicated to make our fishing grounds healthy, vibrant and more productive. Their active work includes; habitat restoration such as resnagging, riverbank planting, clean-ups, fishways, shellfish reefs and educational and community capacity building programs.