Tupong love the Thomson 

The work to re-connect the upper and lower sections of the Thomson River through the construction of a fishway at Horseshoe Bend is starting to see positive results. 

Recent surveys have revealed greater catches of the native Tupong upstream of the Horseshoe Bend tunnel. A range of sizes of fish (juveniles and adults) were also collected above the tunnel, which is a rare find. 

“We’re delighted with these results,” West Gippsland Catchment Management Authority (WGCMA) CEO Martin Fuller said. 

“Our work with the local community over several years is delivering exactly the sort of results we wanted – a healthy, connected river that allows upstream and downstream migration of native species.” 

The construction of a fishway at Horseshoe Bend was completed in August 2019 after many years of negotiation and consultation with the community. 

This project was funded through the Victorian Government’s $222 million investment to improve the health of waterways and catchments. 

The Thomson River is one of the region’s most significant and ecologically important rivers, and the creation of a fishway to allow passage between the Gippsland Lakes to the Victorian alpine region is a state priority. 

“Staff from the Arthur Rylah Institute have been undertaking annual fish monitoring in the Thomson River since 2005 as part of the Victorian Environmental Flows Monitoring and Assessment Program. 

“In this year’s surveys, numbers of Tupong above the tunnel have exceeded anything in the last 15 years. Previously, Tupong were more common downstream of the tunnel but now have unimpeded access to the upper reaches of the catchment,” WGCMA Waterways Project Officer David Stork said. 

“The female of the species migrates long distances upstream where it grows and matures and then it migrates back downstream to the sea to breed. The fact that so many can now get as far as the Aberfeldy and Thomson Dam indicates that they are using the fishway and exploring new territory which is what we wanted to see,” David said. 

The ability of the Tupong to move upstream was aided by a release under the ‘Water for the Environment’ initiative where-by extra flows of water were released from the Thomson Dam under a partnership between the WGCMA and the Victorian Environmental Water Holder (VEWH). 

“Actions to improve fish passage both up and downstream will contribute to restoring the migratory fish community in the Thomson River,” concluded David. 

While visitors to the Thomson area might not be able to easily spot a Tupong, they are encouraged to visit the area around the Horseshoe Bend Tunnel and the new fishway. 

“The Horseshoe Bend Tunnel is around four kilometres from Walhalla on the Thomson River,” WGCMA CEO Martin Fuller said. 

“It was built in 1911 and 1912 to drain water from the Thomson at Horseshoe Bend to allow for alluvial mining of the riverbed and it gained heritage status in 2002. The newly constructed paths around the fishway allow great access to view the tunnel and explore some of the area upstream of the tunnel entrance. It’s well worth a visit,” Martin said. 

Published Wednesday, 12 February 2020.

Tupong in a bucket being released back into the river
Tupong monitoring in the Thomson River