Fish Stories from Australia

Paul Duncanson inspires us with his work on fish passage and passion for fish


In the run-up to the WFMD we have started a new campaign called “Fish Stories”. With these fish stories we want to share the inspiring experiences and success stories from people working on fish migration from different regions of the world.


This week we present Paul Duncanson (NQ Dry Tropics) who is working on fish passage issues in Australia and will be also be hosting a WFMD event this year:

"I first got involved in fish passage issues back in 2007 when I I realised that there are many in-stream structures in North Eastern Australia that are barriers to fish migration. I have a passion for fishing, which I share with many colleagues, researchers, farmers and other North Queenslanders. This means I am personally and professionally dedicated to addressing fish passage problems at priority sites, to promote healthy fish populations for the local community.  Building fishways and removing in-stream barriers not only benefits fish populations but also provides ecosystem services to the internationally important Ramsar Wetlands of Bowling Green Bay, and to the World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef.  

I have worked on fishway construction with some highly dedicated and professional individuals such as Jason Carter (Alluvium Consulting) Dr. Jacques Boubee (National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research New Zealand), Tim Marsden (Australian Fish Passage Services), and local champions such as Scotty Fry (NQ Dry Tropics) and David Sartori (Lower Burdekin Water).  Together we have built fishways to allow fish to use a further 5,000km of stream habitat across our catchment. 

By far the most enjoyable moments of my career have been monitoring and observing what happens following the construction of a fishway. One example was in 2012 at Alligator Creek, where we recorded 927 fish across 19 species over a five-day period.  Another particularly successful project was trialing the eel trap-and-transfer method to move large numbers of migrating juvenile eels (elvers) past a large dam. Using this method under the guidance of Dr Jacques Boubee from NIWA, we were able to manually transfer over 15,000 individual elvers over a six-week period."  

NQ Dry Tropics is an independent, not-for-profit Natural Resource Management (NRM) organisation that supports the Burdekin Dry Tropics community to sustainably manage its land and water.

NQ Dry Tropics works with landholders and community groups on a wide range of projects that control pest species, and reduce chemical and sediment levels in our water, which can be harmful to our waterways and the Great Barrier Reef.