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30 September, 2020


Native freshwater species in Cassowary Coast waterways can gulp a sigh of relief this week thanks to the 2020 Tilapia Tournament which saw nearly 2,000 of the pesky Tilapia removed from Warrina Lakes.

Tilapia young contestant Toby Jones

Five hundred people from throughout the Far North registered to take part in the Tournament, catching an extraordinary 527KG of Tilapia which are being recycled into compost for the Johnstone River Community Garden.

The fishing competition was redesigned by Cassowary Coast Regional Council this year to accommodate COVID-19 restrictions in a week-long tournament during school holidays, Monday 21 to Sunday 28 September.

In 2019 the Tilapia Tournament was a single day event, removing 260 fish from Warrina Lakes.

Cassowary Coast Councillor for Environment, Jeff Baines was amazed to see the 2020 target of 333 fish be annihilated at six times the expected result, and promised the event will return bigger and better in 2021.

“We’ve had overwhelmingly positive feedback from the community who loved the school holiday activity,” said Cr Baines who was also pleased to see Warrina Lakes being enjoyed by so many people throughout the week, many from neighbouring regions.

“I think we’ve started a brand-new Cassowary Coast tradition in this event, that every September school holiday will be Tilapia Tournament time!”

Commonly referred to as the ‘cane toad of waterways’, Tilapia have a high rate of repopulation and aggressively outcompete native species for food and space leading to a decline in biodiversity and species abundance.

Tournament co-host OzFish thanked Council for raising awareness of the damage Tilapia cause to local eco systems.

“The direct benefit of this event is the removal of this fish from local waters, but the secondary effect is the education component which engages hundreds of kids who now know why Tilapia shouldn’t ordinarily be caught,” said North Queensland Project Manager for OzFish, Dr Geoff Collins, who explained that most new Tilapia infestations are caused by people moving live fish to new locations and not by natural spread across catchment boundaries.

“Allowing them to be caught at any other time for consumption promotes the keeping of Tilapia which in turn promotes population spread through the creation of new ‘fisheries’ like stocking in dams or releasing into rivers which is detrimental to our native species’.”

The Tilapia Tournament culminated yesterday afternoon with this year’s winners announced as 11 year-old Jase Braun who caught 245 fish, and 13 year-old Oliver Burgess who caught the biggest fish.

Further prizes were offered to participants in age categories as well as daily Lucky Lake recipients who were randomly drawn each day of the Tournament.

Cassowary Coast Division Four Councillor and Tournament sponsor, Nick Pervan thanked everyone who took part, including the local businesses who came on board to sponsor the event with cash and prizes worth a total value of $1,500.

“The fact that we had so many great prizes to give away made the event that much more special, and I thank every one of the businesses who offered to support us this year,” said Cr Pervan.

“Let’s do it again next year!”

Sponsors of the 2020 Tilapia Tournament included BCF Innisfail, Coastal Marine and Outdoors, Manitto’s Auto Centre, Innisfail Optical, Soils First NQ, River’n’Reef Tackle and Bait Innisfail, Backpackers Shack and Game Fishing Club Innisfail.

With COVID-19 restrictions expected to be lifted by next year’s event, sponsors will be given an opportunity to activate Warrina Lakes with displays and activities throughout the tournament, offering a greater return on investment through community engagement.

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