Phil Slessar

Phil Slessar

04 Phill Slessar, Mark ToomeyPhil Slessar, Australia

Phil is the environmental flows officer at the North Central Catchment Management Authority (Victoria) for the Loddon River and the Birch’s Creek systems.
Phil has 30+ years’ experience working with waterways in both Victoria and New South Wales, including fresh, estuarine, marine and urban storm water quality management, and environmental flow management for rivers and wetlands in the Victorian north central region. He has worked on systems as diverse as the Woronora and Hacking Rivers in metropolitan Sydney, The Hastings and Camden Haven Rivers on the mid-north coast of NSW and the Edwards/Wakool systems in southern NSW
His current role involves the planning and management of environmental flows in the wider Loddon River System that includes Pyramid Creek, and was instrumental in the development of the flow delivery plan for the Loddon-Pyramid Environmental flow in Autumn 2017.

Presentation Title: Flows, habitat, connectivity and cooperation: recovering native fish in northern Victoria

In the early 1900s, the rivers in northern Victoria held so many native fish that the Murray cod fishing company removed tonnes of Murray cod per week for markets in Bendigo and Melbourne. Amateur anglers were also guaranteed a good catch and could invariably choose in advance the type of fish they wanted for their plate on any given evening. European settlement has brought with it many changes that have interfered with native fish’s ability to thrive and survive in our river systems. The Native Fish Recovery Plan is an integrated plan to rehabilitate native fish populations in the Gunbower – Loddon systems in Northern Victoria to 50% of pre-European abundance by 2035. The plan is based on reinstating the three things critical to fish survival and health: flow, habitat (instream woody habitat and vegetation) and connectivity (fish passage). The plan also identifies key threats that need to be overcome such as pest fish control and screening irrigation offtakes (channels and pumps). The plan is being delivered collaboratively with stakeholders, recreational fishers, irrigators, traditional owners and community. The flow cornerstone to the plan has been implemented over the last few years, in line with flow study recommendations to achieve outcomes to support native fish. Examples include Murray cod spawning in Gunbower Creek three years in succession and a recent attractant flow to move fish from the Murray River through a series of fish-ways to the high value habitat of Kow Swamp. The North Central CMA, Victorian Environmental Water Holder and Goulburn Murray Water collaborate closely around the delivery of environmental water to ensure no impact to the needs of irrigators while optimizing environmental outcomes. This partnership is the foundation of the success of environmental flows in the project area.

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