The truck that pulled up to Bland Creek near Barrick’s Cowal Mine in New South Wales was carrying an unusual cargo. Fish – 45,500 of them.
The fish were golden perch fingerlings and their arrival at Bland Creek, which runs into the much larger Lake Cowal, was a homecoming of sorts. That’s because the golden perch are native to Lake Cowal and other regional waterways. But in 2001, Lake Cowal went dry and stayed dry amid a prolonged drought that only subsided in 2010. Since then, the lake, which spans 13,000 hectares, has remained full. But the golden perch have not returned in large numbers, while some non-native species, most notably the common carp, have thrived.
The Native Fish Restocking Program, which was co-funded by Barrick and the New South Wales government, will not only boost the golden perch population in Lake Cowal, it will help control “pest” species, like the carp, says Shane Goodwin, Barrick's community relations manager at Cowal. “It will become more difficult for the carp to find food and shelter so the benefits of staying in the area will decline,” he says.
The restocking initiative received widespread support from the local community, Goodwin says, noting that the golden perch are a favorite among local fishermen.
The golden perch were released into Bland Creek in April. They will grow at a rate of one millimeter per day, and those that survive to adulthood will grow to about six centimeters long and weigh about 600 grams.
Casey Owens, a business administration trainee working in the Cowal mine’s Community Relations department, helped release the fish into Bland Creek. “It was great to be able to get outside and experience a different kind of work,” she says. “I got to see how my work in the office contributes to the work of all of our people at the mine, including our environment team. It was also great to be able to do something positive for the local environment.”