Oh Boyee! Fish researchers survey Bloomfield River

By James Donaldson

Two recent visits to Dawnvale Station and the Bloomfield River have excited local fish researchers Brendan Ebner (Ebb) and James Donaldson from CSIRO and TropWATER at James Cook University.

James Donaldson tells the tale. Ebb and I recently made two visits to the Bloomfield River on Dawnvale Station. Desmond Tayley (Traditional Owner, and Cape York NRM Community Engagment Officer) had set us straight with directions to the homestead and tips on river access. Dr Chris Fulton from the Australian National University accompanied us on the first trip in Ebb’s little Suzuki, affectionately termed ‘the Pilchard’, but that is a tale for another time.

As a first visit to the area for us, the Bloomfield did not disappoint. The objective of the first trip was to perform a brief survey of the river above Bloomfield Falls and also to catch specimens of the elusive and unique Bloomfield river night perch (Guyu wujalwujalensis) , traditionally known as ‘Boyee’ (main picture). The discovery of this fish by scientists around 15 years ago was probably one of the most significant discoveries in terms of Australian freshwater fish. We were keen to get some photos and collect some information on how abundant the species is.

Boyee are actually a small species with the biggest we observed at about 15cm. This species is a member of the same family of fishes that includes the Murray Cod and Golden perch of southern Australia. This little perch is only found in the 11 km stretch of river between Bloomfield and Roaring Meg falls – and nowhere else in the world! As well as the Boyee we also caught rainbowfish, purple-potted gudgeons, eels (Gubat) and catfish (Jolagi) and found the system to be in a very healthy state, although a little quite of fish traffic during the day, making it a little spooky for snorkelling!

The purpose of the second trip was to attend the Dawnvale planning workshop and meet some local Traditional Owners. On our way we visited a small creek just south of Gap Creek and the swamp near Weary Beach where we were impressed by the fish that we observed including some gigantic rainbowfish. We also gave a small off-the-cuff presentation at the Bloomfield Hall where we received interesting questions and information about the biology of the river. We hope to get back to that beautiful country again soon and would appreciate the chance to present some images of the different species that exist underwater in this diverse range of habitats.

Thanks to Des for planting the dream in our mind of visiting Dawnvale Station. Des, it was joyous to be on Country, to witness some unique fish and share in knowledge of the species that call the river home. Thanks also to Frankie, Redman, Djuan, Eddie and others that gave us a better understanding of the area by telling us stories from their country.