Yes, different fish species utilise different habitats. Often, different life stages of individual species also utilise different habitats. For example, yellowfin bream utilise mangrove and seagrass habitats as small juveniles, shallow water over a sandy bottom as large juveniles, and as adults they are associated with seagrass, deep and shallow water over sand and rocky reefs.
The health of our rivers, creeks, bays and oceans is influenced by our activities both in the waterway itself and on the surrounding land. In the past, waterways have undergone extensive change due to urban, industrial and agricultural development. Fish habitat has been degraded by erosion, drainage of floodplains and wetlands, and the removal of riparian and aquatic vegetation, and the construction of in-stream structures has restricted fish passage. These changes have put significant pressure on native fish populations. Australia’s early explorers described a very different picture of our native fish populations to that we see today.
George Evans – possibly the first European to catch a Murray cod – was so impressed with the amount of fish life in the Fish and Macquarie Rivers he remarked in his diary that ‘if we want a fish it is caught immediately; they seem to bite at any time’. From the Journal of Thomas Mitchell, 1835, Darling River at Bourke '… the water being beautifully transparent, the bottom was visible at great depths, showing large fishes in shoals, floating like birds in mid-air.' More information on threats to fish habitats can be found on the Fisheries NSW website and Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning.
A key threat to the health, abundance and diversity of Australia’s fish communities is the destruction of their habitat. Habitat loss, in conjunction with other factors, has severely depleted our native fish numbers. In the Murray Darling Basin, for example, fish communities are estimated to be 10 % of the pre-European settlement level and without intervention will be as low as 5 % within 40 - 50 years.
97 % of total river length in NSW has been modified in some way signifying that 50 to 80 % of the animal species have been lost . We know from historical records and oral histories that even 30 years ago, fish were far more abundant and there was greater diversity throughout inland and coastal NSW.
 Norris R. H., Liston P., Davies N., Dyer F., Linke S., Prosser I. and Young B. (2001) Snapshot of the Murray-Darling Basin River Condition, Report to the Murray-Darling Basin Commission.
Funding opportunities for fish habitat projects can arise at any time- so start thinking about your project and planning it now! Funding may be available through Federal, State and Territory, or Local Governments as well as non-government organisations and the corporate sector.
New South Wales Habitat Action Grants are available each year. Applications are usually called for between August and October. Click here for further information.
The Victorian Government’s Recreational Fishing Grants Program offers small and large grants for projects that improve recreational fishing in Victoria. The large grants program generally opens around October each year. See Get Involved for handy hints on how to start your own fish habitat project.
Healthy waterways in different areas will naturally look different to one another. There is not one answer that fits all, but there are a few questions you can ask yourself. Some of the warning signs that a waterway is or could be becoming unhealthy include:
Muddy or murky water (due to sediment in run-off, stock pugging, erosion of bank or bed, or lack of water)
Exceptionally crystal-clear water or milky blue-green water, particularly in coastal areas (due to high acid levels)
Algal blooms (from too much nutrient entering the water)
Weeds establishing on the banks or in the water
Lack of vegetation along the banks
Lack of snags in the water
Artificial restrictions to water flow (weirs, crossings, floodgates, etc).
Often government staff involved in fisheries resources and fish conservation management are more than happy to present at your club event if resources allow. Contact the relevant government department in your State or Territory or any of the Fish Habitat Networks Partners for assistance.
Help may be available from many places but in the first instance try contacting your local Conservation Manager or Fishcare Volunteer Coordinator. You may also wish to raise your fish habitat rehabilitation ideas with your Local Council or Catchment Management Authority.
See Get Involved for handy hints on how to start your own fish habitat project.
Follow Habitat dates and Newstreams for dates and links to information on upcoming fish habitat events, including Fishers for Fish Habitat forums. Specific information on New South Wales Fishers for Fish Habitat forum events is available here