“The resignation of the Chair of the NSW Fisheries Scientific Committee, Associate Professor Mark Lintermans, puts a spotlight on the NSW Government’s refusal to take scientific advice about the environmental disaster that will unfold as a result of Snowy 2.0” lamented Gary Dunnett, Executive Officer of the National Parks Association of NSW, and Andrew Cox, Chief Executive Officer of the Invasive Species Council.
Associate Professor Mark Lintermans resigned in protest as Chair of the NSW Fisheries Scientific Committee immediately after the NSW Government’s approval of the Snowy 2.0 Main Works EIS. Associate Professor Lintermans had served on the Committee for nine years.
“I cannot continue to serve a government that so wilfully ignores the destructive impacts of Snowy 2.0 on two threatened fish species, the Stocky Galaxias and Macquarie Perch,” said Lintermans.
The NSW Government also signalled plans to grant an exemption to Snowy Hydro for the transfer of invasive species and diseases, prohibited under the NSW Biosecurity Act. “It is unprecedented for a government to grant an exemption that will likely cause the extinction in the wild of a species,” said Lintermans.
“Instead of adopting the universally accepted best-practice of preventing the transfer of invasive fish, Snowy Hydro are proposing second-rate alternatives to try and contain the invasive fish after transfer”.
Professor Lintermans has called for an independent review of the threats, mitigation measures, and long-term impacts.
“The spread of pest fish and diseases throughout the Snowy Mountains and its iconic rivers – Murrumbidgee, Snowy and Murray – is one of many tragic consequences of Snowy 2.0” Mr Cox said.
“The critically endangered stocky galaxias, already pushed towards extinction by trout stocking and thousands of feral horses, will be delivered its death blow by Snowy 2.0 through the deliberate spread of the predatory Climbing Galaxias and the deadly EHN virus.” Mr Cox continued.
“Yesterday’s decision will go down in history as one of the most reprehensible decisions of a NSW Government and will leave an appalling legacy on one of Australia’s most fragile and precious of natural icons, Kosciuszko National Park.” Mr Dunnett concluded.
Media Contact: Gary Dunnett, Executive Officer, National Parks Association, 02 9299 0000
Other Media Contacts available on request: Andrew Cox, Chief Executive Officer, Invasive Species Council, Mark Lintermans, University of Canberra
Associate Professor Mark Lintermans
Associate Professor Lintermans is a leader in freshwater fish conservation in Australia and has had a long career in threatened fish ecology and management. He has worked on Macquarie Perch since 1984 and Stocky galaxias since it was described as a new species in 2014. He is a previous Oceania Regional Chair of the IUCN Freshwater Fish Specialist Group; a Past President of the Australian Society for Fish Biology (ASFB); the Convener or Co-convener of the ASFB Threatened Fishes Committee from 2009-2018; and the Convener of the ASFB Alien Fishes Committee in 2004-06 and 2007-08. He has been a member of the ACT Scientific Committee since 2012 and is/was a member or Chair of the NSW Fisheries Scientific Committee since 2012. In 2019 he led the only national assessment of the conservation status of all Australian freshwater fish for the IUCN Red List.
Impacts of Snowy 2.0 on endangered fish
The Snowy 2.0 development in Kosciuszko National Park will have severe impacts on two species of critically endangered native fish, the Stocky Galaxias and Macquarie Perch. The last remaining population of Stocky Galaxias, confined to Tantangara Creek, is at risk of extinction through the introduction of a predator and competitor that is currently absent from the Tantangara catchment, the Climbing Galaxias.
The threat to Macquarie Perch is a result of the spread of the Epizootic Haematopoietic Necrosis Virus (EHNV), a fish disease associated with Redfin Perch, a pest fish species that will be lifted into Tantangara by the Snowy 2.0 pumps. EHNV is known to have a catastrophic impact on Macquarie Perch and it is expected that the significant population in the upper Murrumbidgee will become extinct.
Snowy Hydro proposes to build a barrier to prevent the invasion of Climbing galaxias in Stocky Galaxias’ habitat. This technique has not been tested in Australia and similar barriers in New Zealand have had mixed success. Stocky galaxias cannot afford for this barrier to fail, even temporarily. Even if successful, the barrier’s location will severely compromise future conservation efforts for Stocky galaxias. Other streams which are targeted for reintroduction attempts to establish additional populations of Stocky galaxias will be totally unprotected, and so ultimately the single protected population is at an extremely high risk of extinction as a result of fires, feral horses or other threats in the future.
The Redfin Perch is a voracious predator and is the major host to the deadly EHNV. Establishing a population of Redfin perch in Tantangara is the first stepping-stone to establishing the virus, which is likely to have dramatic impacts on the population of Macquarie perch in the Murrumbidgee River downstream of the reservoir.
The virus can be spread on fishing gear and with Snowy Hydro proposing to enhance trout populations and recreational fishing facilities in Tantangara, which poses a threat for the virus to become established in the new Redfin population, and then downstream. Tantangara has overtopped twice since being constructed in the 1960s, and with much higher water levels as a result of pumping from Talbingo, is highly likely to spill again, carrying Redfin perch and the virus into the heart of the Macquarie perch population.
Fisheries Scientific Committee
The Fisheries Scientific Committee is an independent body established under Part 7A of the Fisheries Management Act 1994. The Committee consists of seven scientists, with expertise in the biology of fish, aquatic invertebrates and marine vegetation; population dynamics, aquatic ecology and genetics of small populations.
Snowy 2.0 is a nationally significant project and deserves independent scrutiny. The Fisheries Scientific Committee provided advice to NSW Government about the impacts of Snowy 2.0 in December 2019 but has had no response to its concerns.