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Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Save the Australian Lungfish

I don't normally post this kind of thing, but this is too important to miss. Can anyone who reads this post - and agrees with the petition - please go to the site below and sign it. I've also included some background from the petition site below.

A Very Special Fish – Australian Lungfish under Threat

The Queensland Government’s surprise decision (5 July 2006) to proceed with a very large dam on the Mary River threatens the survival of one of the most scientifically important animals on earth. Throughout most of its length for most of the year, the Mary is nothing more than a small, meandering coastal creek but it is uniquely important as habitat for several of the country’s endangered species. One of these is the Australian or Queensland lungfish, a ‘living fossil’ that has existed unchanged since the time of the dinosaurs. Of all living fish groups, the lungfish are the closest relatives of the land vertebrates – the amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals, including ourselves. Lungfish were abundant 400 million years ago, during the Devonian (the “Age of Fish”) but have now dwindled to only three kinds, respectively living in South America, Africa and Australia. The South American and African forms are weirdly modified larval-looking creatures, but the Australian lungfish is still very similar to those ancient fish that gave rise to the first land vertebrates. It is thus uniquely important to scientists studying the origin of land animals.

Fossils show that the Australian lungfish was alive as it is today already during the Cretaceous, alongside the dinosaurs. This probably makes it the oldest living vertebrate species. At that time it was much more widespread than it is today. Now it only occurs naturally in the Mary and Burnett rivers in SE Queensland. Introductions into other rivers in the past have largely been unsuccessful, with the exception of the Brisbane River, but this population of lungfish is only just hanging on due to extensive damming of the river to provide water for greater Brisbane. Australian lungfish have an absolute requirement for shallow, slow-flowing, densely vegetated riffles as spawning and nursery habitat. These environmental features are characteristic of both the Burnett and the Mary but it is exactly these features that are lost entirely by permanent flooding resulting from the construction of dam walls. Dams thus pose a mortal threat to the long-term survival of the lungfish populations.

A mega dam was completed late last year on the Burnett River. When it is full, it will have permanently destroyed 42 km of lungfish spawning/nursery grounds. Prior to construction of this dam the lungfish were listed as vulnerable on the Federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. With the destruction of their spawning/nursery habitat on the Burnett and now even greater destruction on the Mary, should this dam go ahead, that listing would need to be revised to ‘critically endangered’. The dam can still be stopped by the Federal Minister for Environment and Heritage, but he needs to be persuaded to act.

The significance of the Australian lungfish cannot be overstated. As a ‘living fossil’ it provides the only opportunity to study the development and physiology of the aquatic predecessors of all land vertebrates, including ourselves. Australia is the custodian of this invaluable information source for the rest of the world. The answer to Queensland’s water problem lies in education on water use and smart new technologies, not in damming a fragile coastal river system and willfully extinguishing a uniquely important animal.


Em said...

Signed the petition - hope I am not going to end up with an inbox full of spam though.....

I really need to give up fish. Apart from fish I have been a vego for 10 years, but I have struggled to let go of this one last thing. I only eat it a couple of times a month though.

Always good to come across a fellow vego runner to help dispel the pale anemia stricken myth :-)

Susan said...

My undying love for the lungfish has be documented. My life is now complete.

Black Knight said...

The Black Knight Army fights to defend the animals. Always. Signed the petition.