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Swimming ability of Redfin Perch (Perca fluviatilis) and implications for passage over barriers


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Davies, PE ORCID: 0000-0003-2651-4061 2000 , Swimming ability of Redfin Perch (Perca fluviatilis) and implications for passage over barriers.

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The redfin perch (Perca fluviatilis) is an exotic fish introduced into Tasmania in the mid
1800's. It is now well established and widespread in NSW and Victoria, as well as a
number of catchments in Tasmania (Wasson et al. 1996). The species is known from the
catchments of the South Esk and Derwent Rivers, and from a number of lower and mid
altitude lakes including Lake Gordon. It is widely considered a pest species and there is
active concern regarding the potential for establishment of the species in other waters,
particularly lakes of the Central Highlands and Lake Pedder. There has been a recent
focus on the potential for passage of redfin perch through McPartlans Pass Canal into
Lake Pedder, and via the Ouse/Shannon River system into the smaller lakes of the Central
Highlands. The species is well known from a number of larger farm and municipal dams,
and lack of quality control during government and private stocking and translocation of
rainbow trout and elvers is thought to have been responsible for some of this range
expansion (Davies et al. 1997).
Natural and manmade barriers to fish movement within stream drainages are common,
and some stop fish passage through a combination of high velocity flow and vertical
drops. Most however, are typified by a high velocity, hydraulically smooth zone through
which the fish cannot pass due to limitations in swimming abilities. Fish use several
swimming modes, including short bursts of high speed swimming, to negotiate high
velocity water or barriers.
There are two dominant modes of fish swimming - sustained swimming and burst
swimming. The point at which a fish switches from using 100% aerobic metabolism, used
during sustained swimming (where swimming can be maintained for > 30 - 200 min), to
anaerobic metabolism (resulting in fatigue) is defined as the maximum sustainable
swimming speed. Anaerobic swimming, characteristic of burst swimming, can only be
maintained for brief periods, typically no more than 20 seconds. Quantification of
maximum sustained swimming and burst swimming speeds is vital for determining the
needs of fish passage. A third swimming category, prolonged swimming, is intermittent
between 100% aerobic swimming and anaerobic swimming, where a combination of both
types is employed (Beamish 1978). This latter category cannot be accurately assessed or
measured (Beamish 1978), tends to be arbitrarily defined by the experimenter (e.g. see
Mitchell 1989),and is not useful in defining swimming-determined limits to barrier
This project was instigated in order to characterise the swimming performance of redfin
perch and to define its ability to pass barriers at specific water velocities. Work recently
conducted by Walker (1999), and Davies and Walker (in prep.), has quantified the
swimming capabilities of four common Tasmanian freshwater fish species. Their work
focused on measuring maximum sustainable and burst swimming speeds for each species
in flume trials. They were able to develop predictive equations from these data to relate
distance traveled by each species to water velocity for a range of fish performance. These
equations were then successfully validated by observing fish swimming performance in
the field over a range of water velocities, using experimentally manipulated flows
through culverts. Duration of fish passage was then estimated for six road culverts, and
related to culvert characteristics.
It was suggested to Hydro that these techniques could be used to develop a similar
database and predictive equations for redfin perch. These data are needed in response to
design issues and queries from Hydro in relation to construction of barriers to passage of
redfin perch within Hydro catchments. This project therefore quantifies maximum
sustained and burst swimming speeds for redfin perch, develops distance vs water
velocity equations and makes recommendations in relation to the design of barriers to
redfin perch movement.

Item Type: Report (Project Report)
Authors/Creators:Davies, PE
Keywords: redfin perch, freshwater ecology, Tasmania, hydro electric power, barriers, fish passage
Publisher: Hydro Electric Commission
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