Sooty grunter in the spotlight

27 October 2017

The Daly River is one of the treasures of the Territory. One of the few northern rivers that flow year-round, the Daly has one of the most diverse fish populations of any Australian river, with a bumper 98 species.

Many of these fish depend upon dry season river flows to survive and reproduce, and smart water allocation planning in the Daly is critical to safeguard the future of this extraordinary biodiversity. The movements and habitats of sooty grunter, or black bream, are being studied as part of a larger Northern Hub project that’s supporting water allocation planning in the Daly River, led by A/Prof Alison King at Charles Darwin University.

Found in fresh waters throughout northern Australia, these fish are important both recreationally and culturally. Young sooty grunter prefer to live in fast-flowing areas of the river, and so may be affected by potential future changes to river flows. Researchers have been in the field this dry season, using radio telemetry to track around 30 juvenile sooty grunter in the Daly. This data will be used to understand the flow levels and patterns that are most important to the fish, particularly during the late dry season when water levels are naturally lower.

The project is also tracking other species, analysing flood patterns and mapping food webs to help inform water planning and allocation.

Daly sooter grunter

Tracking juvenile sooty grunter in the Daly River, photo Krystle Keller

Sooty grunter in the Daly

Tracking juvenile sooty grunter in the Daly River, photo Brendan Adair

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