Felicity Hardcastle

Fish Health Check-ups

I am a recent graduate of the BSc in Animal Ecology with a minor in Marine and Coastal Conservation. I have a love for fish and all things ‘fishy’. I love being out in the elements of our beautiful coastal systems and am super excited to start my research journey in earnest.

Commercial and recreational fisheries are a vital cog in the complex gearbox that makes our economy turn over. People harvest many species of fish to be used commercially for food. People also get ‘fishy’ for the simple reason of enjoying a day out on water as recreational anglers. Some of our most productive fisheries are located in estuaries and many people fish in the beautiful rivers of the coastal strip of South-East Queensland.

Given the popularity of fishing, one would assume that we have a good handle on how ‘healthy’ the fish are in our estuaries. Whilst we don’t have any alarm signs yet that something might not be ‘quite right’ with the fish in our estuaries, we can’t take this ‘health status’ for granted. Just as is the case for humans, good public health policy requires regular check-ups to detect any diseases that may lurk in the population. This where my project comes in: I do a health check of fish from the estuaries of Southern Queensland, sampling fish from all the major coastal rivers in the region, from the Noosa in the North to the Tweed in the South. In the laboratory I first get a full set of body measurements for every fish (surprisingly these can indicate health rather well), determine the concentrations of chemicals in the flesh, check for parasites and any signs of gill diseases, and examine the type and diversity of ingested prey in the digestive system: ‘primary health fish care’ in action, just what the doctor ordered.

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