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Eastern Fleurieu School student Rebecca Jackson, 15, is part of a lower Murray turtle rescue program, which aims to save short- and long-necked turtles from tube-worm infestation, the result of
rising salt and falling water levels.
Eastern Fleurieu School students Kyle Chesser, 10, and Galen McFarland, 11. To date, the students, who’ve patrolled the edges of Clayton bay since the end of March, have saved 550 turtles; 300 were tagged and released 70 km upstream, where the water is fresher.
Glen Hill is one of 30-or-so people working the lower Murray fishery. Having worked on The Coorong for 18 years, he believes that despite changing conditions, fishing can continue. “The system has always been dynamic, from dry to hypersaline right through to fresh,” he says. “The marine life has managed to carve out a niche.” The key to the fishery’s continued success is its commitment to low mechanisation, and limits on net numbers, mesh size, and licences, which, Glen says, has sustained them for 150 years. “There is a future, even though it doesn’t seem that way.”
Proof that the lower Murray system has long been a fishing ground has been discovered by a team led by Scott Heyes (pictured with Christine La Bond), from the University of Melbourne, which has been examining an Aboriginal fish trap discovered this year on the northern shore of Lake Alexandrina. The trap comprises a stone entrance way leading to a timber pound, in which shellfish were placed to attract fish. At high tide fish swam up the channel, over rocks piled 400 mm high. As the tide ebbed, fish were trapped. “This important find is now exposed to the elements,” Scott says.
Residents Mick and Lesley Fischer. Lesley helped her polio-crippled father clear rabbits to rebuild the old farm. Now, with irrigation impossible, they want to build a feedlot. They’ll have fewer cows, and instead of growing feed, they’ll truck it in. “We’re not going anywhere,” Lesley says.
Change has been a constant of farming in the lower Murray district, with fortunes gained, lost and rebuilt again. In 1866, Sam Dodd’s forefathers bought the 810 ha. family property, nestled between The Coorong and Lake Albert, and according to Sam “every generation has done something different”, including raising beef cattle, agisting horses, managing rabbit plagues and expanding the herd as irrigation made dairying increasingly profitable. Sensing the irrigation era was over, the Dodds aligned their main milking season with the winter rains. “We won’t irrigate in summer again,” Sam says. “Most people have stopped [producing milk].”
In the 1930s, five concrete barrages were built to protect the lower Murray’s freshwater lakes from saltwater tides. More recently, the Murray’s flow has slowed to a trickle and the barrages separate the saline water of The Coorong (left) from the shallow expanse of Lake Alexandrina (right).
Architect Mike Galea has been sailing the broad waters of Lake Alexandrina for three decades, ever since he tacked across Clayton bay as a 17-year-old with the Port Adelaide Scouts. A member of the Clayton Bay Boat Club, he’s watched water levels ebb during the past few years, but says that this year they’ve plummeted.
Darryl May’s grandfather took the lease on a shack beside Lake Alexandrina in the 1960s. Darryl “was a city kid [and the shack] was an hour’s drive, but it was a world away.” His childhood memories of holidays spent fishing, swimming and boating with mates at Milang were experiences he wanted to share with his wife Sue and their children Tom and Sam (above, with Loretta and Katerina Traitoros and dog Cherry).
Home Topics Science & Environment Gallery: Working on the Murray River
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