Critically endangered Southern Highlands native crayfish offered a lifeline

New initiatives aim to protect the endangered Fitzroy Falls Spiny Crayfish. Photo: supplied
New initiatives aim to protect the endangered Fitzroy Falls Spiny Crayfish. Photo: supplied

An exciting and much-needed initiative aims to extend a helping hand, or claw, to one of Australia’s most threatened aquatic species.

South East Local Land Services and NSW Department of Primary Industries Fisheries, with support from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program, will work to secure the future of a critically endangered native spiny crayfish. The Fitzroy Falls Spiny Crayfish is naturally very rare, having been identified as only occurring within a 12km stretch of creek in the Southern Highlands. 

LLS officer Felicity Sturgiss said while these enigmatic creatures were critically endangered, “we now have the resources and the knowledge to invest in improving their habitat and improving farm infrastructure”. “This is a win/win for land managers and the crays, and comes at an important time,” Felicity said.

“Recent surveys found that these crayfish seem to have drastically declined in numbers, likely due to the current dry conditions, however the cumulative impacts of predation by carp and yabbies, trampling by livestock and the loss of cooling vegetation on the water’s edge have made it very hard for them to get through stressful events like drought.”

A 12-month project is underway and the community is invited to get on board and learn more about this ancient crustacean and others like it. Significant support is available to land managers with property adjacent to key habitat. Funding for important farm infrastructure such as riparian fencing to exclude stock from waterways and installation of off-stream watering systems will provide much cleaner and more accessible water for livestock, as well as protect the creek from trampling. Planting tough local species along the creekline will encourage bank stability, keep the aquatic food-web cycling and improve water quality to support the crays.

This is an opportunity to work with LLS to be a key part of securing the future of this unique spiny cray. Other exciting activities are proposed that the broader community can get involved in to show their support for this rare and intriguing species. These include public artwork, school visits, public talks and information days. Details: aabio.com.au/crayfish-list or dpi.nsw.gov.au/fishing/species-protection/what-current/critically/fitzroy-falls-spiny-crayfish

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