Wildlife Research Wildlife Research Society
Ecology, management and conservation in natural and modified habitats

Recovery of the red-finned blue-eye: an endangered fish from springs of the Great Artesian Basin

R. Fairfax A , R. Fensham A F , R. Wager B , S. Brooks C , A. Webb D and P. Unmack E

A Queensland Herbarium, Environmental Protection Agency, Mt Coot-tha Road, Toowong, Qld 4066, Australia.

B CRFH Pty Ltd, PO Box 106, Esk, Qld 4321, Australia.

C Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries, GPO Box 46, Brisbane, Qld 4001, Australia.

D School of Tropical Biology, James Cook University, Douglas, Qld 4811, Australia.

E Integrative Biology, 401 WIDB, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT 84602, USA.

F Corresponding author. Email: rod.fensham@epa.qld.gov.au

Wildlife Research 34(2) 156-166 https://doi.org/10.1071/WR06086
Submitted: 13 July 2006  Accepted: 14 March 2006   Published: 24 April 2007


The red-finned blue-eye (Scaturiginichthys vermeilipinnis) is endemic to a single complex of springs emanating from the Great Artesian Basin, Australia. The species has been recorded as naturally occurring in eight separate very shallow (generally <20 mm) springs, with a combined wetland area of ~0.3 ha. Since its discovery in 1990, five red-finned blue-eye (RFBE) populations have been lost and subsequent colonisation has occurred in two spring wetlands. Current population size is estimated at <3000 individuals. Artesian bores have reduced aquifer pressure, standing water levels and spring-flows in the district. There is evidence of spatial separation within the spring pools where RFBE and the introduced fish gambusia (Gambusia holbrooki) co-occur, although both species are forced together when seasonal extremes affect spring size and water temperature. Gambusia was present in four of the five springs where RFBE populations have been lost. Four out of the five remaining subpopulations of RFBE are Gambusia free. Circumstantial evidence suggests that gambusia is a major threat to red-finned blue-eyes. The impact of Gambusia is probably exacerbated by domestic stock (cattle and sheep), feral goats and pigs that utilise the springs and can negatively affect water quality and flow patterns. Three attempts to translocate RFBE to apparently suitable springs elsewhere within the complex have failed. Opportunities to mitigate threats are discussed, along with directions for future research to improve management of this extremely threatened fish and habitat.


The current landholders at Edgbaston, Alan and Fay Wills, have been inundated by biologists wanting to study the extraordinary springs on their property. Their patience and ongoing hospitality has been gratefully received by the authors and others over many years. Thanks go to Adrian Tappin, Chris Clague, Mike Hammer and anonymous referees for reviewing a draft manuscript. Will Smith generously prepared the spring maps. N. Armstrong, H. Bleher, R. Bowman, G. Briggs, J. Cousins, A. Dawson, J. Graf, N. Grunwald, K. Hand, B. Hansen, H. Heironimus, R. Leggett, G. Lenehan, G. Maebe, B. Pierce, G. Rich, R. Robinson, G. Schmida, T. Sim, A. Tappin and G. Walker are thanked for sharing their knowledge, experiences and support. The Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Water kindly supplied bore information.


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