Marine and Freshwater Research Marine and Freshwater Research Society
Advances in the aquatic sciences

Can a low-gradient vertical-slot fishway provide passage for a lowland river fish community?

Ivor G. Stuart A B E , Brenton P. Zampatti C and Lee J. Baumgartner D

A Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research, Post Office Box 137, Heidelberg, Vic. 3084, Australia.

B Present address: Kingfisher Research, 20 Chapman Street, Diamond Creek, Vic. 3089, Australia.

C Inland Waters Program, SARDI Aquatic Sciences, Post Office Box 120, Henley Beach, SA 5022, Australia.

D New South Wales Department of Primary Industries, Narrandera Fisheries Centre, Post Office Box 182, Narrandera, NSW 2700, Australia.

E Corresponding author. Email:

Marine and Freshwater Research 59(4) 332-346
Submitted: 5 August 2007  Accepted: 3 March 2008   Published: 15 May 2008


Fishways are commonly used to restore native fish movements in regulated rivers. In the Murray-Darling Basin, Australia, 14 fishways are to be built by 2011 to improve passage along 2225 km of the river. The first of these fishways, constructed in 2003, is a vertical-slot design with low water velocities (0.98–1.4 m s–1) and turbulence (average 42 W m–3). This design was selected to provide passage for individuals between 20 and 1000 mm long. To determine passage success, trapping and a remote automated passive integrated transponder (PIT) tag reading system was used from October 2003 to February 2006. In 57 24-h samples at the exit (upstream end) and entrance (downstream end), 13 species and 30 409 fish were collected at a maximum rate of 4415 fish per day. Fish between 31 and 1030 mm successfully ascended the fishway. However, significantly smaller (<31 mm) fish and small-bodied (<50 mm) carp gudgeons (Hypseleotris spp.), a species previously considered non-migratory, were sampled downstream from the entrance of the fishway. The remote PIT tag reading system revealed that 81% of native golden perch (Macquaria ambigua) and 87% of non-native common carp (Cyprinus carpio) successfully ascended the fishway. These data will help maximise the efficiency of future fishways against a series of pre-determined performance criteria.

Additional keywords: Australia, common carp, golden perch, migration, Murray River, pasive integrated transponder tag, potamodromous.


The construction of the Lock 8 fishway was funded by the Murray-Darling Basin Commission (MDBC). We sincerely thank Jim Barrett and John Prentice (MDBC) for their support. Expert technical assistance in the field was provided by staff from three states. From Victoria, we thank John McKenzie, Andrew Pickworth and Karl Pomorin, Arthur Rylah Institute. Karl Pomorin developed ‘Autologger’, the PIT tag monitoring and download system. From the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries we thank Ian Wooden, Leo Cameron, Nathan Reynoldson and Justin Stanger. From the South Australian Research and Development Institute, we thank David Short, Ian Magraith and Chris Bice. We are grateful for on-site support at Lock 8 by SA Water staff, including Colin Pfennig, Brian Kelly, John McNeil and David Sly. We thank Craig Broadfoot, Queensland Fisheries Service, for technical support in designing and installing the PIT tag reader. Tim Marsden, Queensland Fisheries Service, drafted the fishway diagrams. Thanks to Barry Porter, Department of Water, Land and Biodiversity Conservation, for the river flow information. We thank four anonymous referees for improving an earlier draft of the manuscript.


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