Crayfish recovery plan more important than ever after population disaster

VULNERABLE: Tasmania's Giant Freshwater Lobster has taken another hit to low population numbers in the June floods. Picture: Todd Walsh

VULNERABLE: Tasmania's Giant Freshwater Lobster has taken another hit to low population numbers in the June floods. Picture: Todd Walsh

There are concerns for the future of the threatened giant freshwater lobster following the discovery of a mass of carcasses in the Leven river following recent floods.

Already under threat from poaching and habitat destruction about 100 dead or dying lobsters were found washed downstream in the Leven river in June after the floods. 

“Because of the shear force and volume of water coming through the canyon it’s just stripped everything, no matter where the lobsters tried to hide they just got washed away,” Cradle Coast NRM Project Officer Mark Wisniewski said. 

He said previous surveys of the area revealed already low population numbers before this most recent hit. “To see that large number of carcasses is quite concerning,” he said. 

Cradle Coast NRM is working with experts to determine the extent of the impact and develop a rehabilitation plan. Due to slow developing sexual maturity, it could be a long time until populations start to replenish.

MASSIVE: The giant freshwater lobster can grow up to a metre in length and 6kg in weight, it's the largest known freshwater crayfish. Picture: Todd Walsh

MASSIVE: The giant freshwater lobster can grow up to a metre in length and 6kg in weight, it's the largest known freshwater crayfish. Picture: Todd Walsh

Experts and environmentalists said the Draft Recovery Plan for the Giant Freshwater Lobster is now more important than ever. Public submissions on the plan close on Monday. The plan has provisions to formally protect critical habitat areas, implement mechanisms to protect the species on private land and improve management and regulation of upstream catchment areas. 

Wilderness Society spokesman Vica Bayley said people have long called for action to protect the species and hopes this most recent disaster will prompt a commitment to their rehabilitation.

The population has clearly just suffered a hit through these floods, it's more of an impetus than ever. - Wilderness Society spokesman Vica Bailey

The draft plan has been well received, but all eyes are now on the government to implement its actions. “It really now comes down to weather state and federal ministers sign off on it and actually put it into action,” crayfish researcher Todd Walsh said. 

“The future of the species hangs off the willingness of the government to take these actions,” Mr Bayley said.

The giant freshwater lobster, also known as a crayfish, is the largest known freshwater crayfish in the world and is listed as vulnerable on both state and commonwealth registers. 

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