New hope at Edgbaston Reserve

Published 21 Dec 2011 

A little fish inches back from the brink thanks to our supporters

Dr Adam Kerezy in a spring at Edgebaston Reserve. Photo Alison WheelerThanks to your support, Dr Adam Kerezy has good news from the red-finned blue-eye at Edgebaston Reserve, Qld. Photo Alison Wheeler

The path to conservation success can be long, winding – and sometimes a little muddy. But Dr Adam Kerezsy has good news from Edgbaston Reserve, where he continues his mission to save the red-finned blue-eye.

Dr Adam Kerezsy is unpacking his bags from his most recent trip to central Queensland's Edgbaston Reserve – roughly his 20th such visit. It's lucky the freshwater ecologist is a patient man.

Adam has been working with Australia's smallest freshwater fish (and one of the most endangered) on behalf of Bush Heritage supporters for three years, in a mammoth effort to save it from extinction.

And finally, he has some good news to share with the thousands of people like you, who last year supported his quest.

"There is definitely good news to report," says Adam, in the familiar country twang that's been heard on myriad radio programs since the public got wind of his work. "I can now confirm that we have three new populations of blue-eye, which seem to be doing okay. It's early days yet – we're only six months in – but they're healthy and there are no feral gambusia in their new habitat."

Red-finned blue-eye fishOne of Australia's most endangered fish, the red-finned blue-eye, safer thanks to you. Photo: Adam Kerezy

That's big news for a fish whose only habitat in the world for some time was three 5cm-deep springs on Edgbaston Reserve – and its thanks largely to people like you.

Since June 2010, when thousands of supporters got behind Adam's quest to save the blue-eye, Adam has established plastic barriers to keep out feral gambusia ("mosquito fish"), a species that out-competes the blue-eye with its phenomenal breeding rate. He also relocated existing blue-eye populations into new springs that were free from gambusia. So far, the strategy seems to be working.

Conservation is rarely a straight road, however. "Sometimes," says Adam, "you take two steps forward, and one step back. Although the three new populations are doing well, we found that gambusia have invaded one of the established springs."

It's a reminder that this challenge needs ongoing, regular attention. We can't just do our thing and walk away - there is no magical quick-fix. We need to be there for the long haul.
A plastic mesh barrier around a spring protects endangered fish from feral gambusia.A plastic mesh barrier around a spring protects endangered fish from feral gambusia. Photo: Adam Kerezy

Dr Adam Kerezsy's interest in freshwater fish is far from a fad. He's been splashing about in waterholes and rivers since he was a teenager.

His interest has taken him to Bush Heritage's Simpson Desert reserves, on an adventurous eight-week trip down the Kimberley's remote Berkeley River and dozens of other places, as he describes in his recently published book, Desert Fishing Lessons.

All of his fishy forays have involved chasing fish in unusual places, and Adam says the blue-eye is no exception. The blue-eye's tenacity is also part of its intrigue.

"In some ways, the blue-eye seems as tough as nails. It survives in the harshest environment you could imagine for a fish. But in other ways it's very particular - the springs we move it to must be very similar to its original habitat or it just won't last."

Setting nets in a desert lakeAdam Kerezsy and Mick Brigden set nets in a waterhole in the Simpson Desert. Photo: Angus Emmott

Adam is a very long way from resting his hat. "Summer will be the make-or-break," he says. "That's when the rains come and we could get local flooding. All it would take is one big flood and we could be in trouble. We've got plenty of work to do yet."

Bush Heritage Australia gratefully acknowledges The Nature Conservancy's David Thomas Challenge for their generous support of this work.

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