in the time of creation dreaming -I placed an order for 100 silver perch fingerlings with a fish hatchery on the central coast.
The blackfellas call this freshwater fish with a pointed snout -bidyan. They are omnivorous – eating insect larvae molluscs algae – making them suited to a dam environment.
Some 25 years ago we released silver and yellow perch into the island dam and the lily dam.By the time the girls were teenagers they were able to catch a fish for lunch.
I had promised the young king that we would do this together .so on the day the courier called to say the fish were in a depot in Bega I plucked Kingston John out of school early.
Where are you going? asks Oscar? Kingston shrugs looks at me . I tell class 2 about the tiny fingerlings in a plastic bag in the back of the car that are going to grow up in our forest dam. Asher calls out ,what sort of fish?
The young king is now eight loves fishing with granddad , drawing making books and cards and shields, riding his new bike, catching skinks, jumping the scooter up at the slate park, with a healthy natural curiosity about the world and every creature in it coupled with a strong desire to protect it All.
We load the box into the wheelbarrow and wrestle our way along the overgrown track down to the island dam. Thick mud attaches to our shoes smelling of deep earth. With scissors we pierce open the bags and shepherd the silver perch into their new home. There have been some fatalities, apparently they can get antsy in close quarters and start fighting with each other.
Kneeling we watch the tiny fishies dart about in the shallows before the rich dark tannin water swallows them.Kingston spends the rest of the afternoon exploring the banks seeking out yabby holes, turning over logs and rocks and quizzing me – how long do eels get? what do they eat? how many turtles are in here ? how big do they get? until I reply I need a cup of tea and back up to the house we go.
I am not sure of the morality of this endeavour but I have chosen to take this step anyway. I reflect on our so-called rights to fashion the world how we wish even to wondering building the dam in the first place.
Every action we take has a consequence . How much is too much and where does the balance lie? The pendulum is swinging wildly and many of our activities are seeing the planet in a worse for wear state. How can we learn this balance and is it too late? While I accept responsibility for this decision I also feel the need to soul search …
Silver perch are listed as vulnerable having disappeared from 87% of their natural range with only one known ‘wild’ mob in the Murray River. Factors affecting them in the wild include the introduction of carp, the constructions of dams and weirs, the regulation of water flows, the demise of spring floods summed up as loss of habitat.
Kingston john tells me today he has so many pictures to make. On Saturday morning granddad took him up to Corunna state forest where a protest is happening to make clear that the logging of the spotted gum forest where a sea eagle nests and a masked owl lives is not ok with the people. He watched a man make a banner and came home recreating it.No tree no me it says. Some months ago he did a picture of the coral reef and creatures saying no mining and stop adani relating to the proposed mine in the Galilee basin that will damage the Great Barrier Reef . I don’t like adani he admits to me but happy to know that friends of ours are up their placing their bodies minds and spirits on the line.
Silver perch are fecund having an egg spill of 200,000 to 300,000 – spawning occurs in spring at the surface of the water in the evening. The male comes along and after some vigorous thrashing about the eggs are fertilized. The eggs go on a little drift before settling and hatching some 1-3 days later. We are told that they won’t breed in a dam environment but even so are thought to be a long-lived species.
One day in the future Kingston will come along with his fishing rod, his sister and his cousins. He will tell the story of the day he left school early, raced home with grandma singing ‘its alright little fishies’ to the sloshing plastic bags in the back then wheeling them thru the bush getting stuck again and again on branches and vines then getting stuck in the thick mud and finally tearing the bags open and letting them free..
On that day he will bless his ancestors, give thanks for the gifts of the forest , catch a beautiful grown silver perch and bring it home to share with his tribe.