Help stop the spread of pest fish Tilapia

9th January 2018

The Murray Darling Basin is under threat from invasion by the pest fish Tilapia.

Landholders, fishers and river users are encouraged to be on the lookout for Tilapia in the Northern Tablelands region. Tilapia are widespread in many coastal catchments of QLD and parts of northern NSW and are at risk of spreading rapidly.

Independent Fisheries Scientist Charlie Carruthers said “If Tilapia make their way into a flowing river or creek in the Murray-Darling Basin it will be extremely difficult, if not impossible to eradicate them”.

“Unfortunately, most new Tilapia introductions are thought to be caused by people moving them between waterways” added Mr. Carruthers.

Tilapia impact native fish through competition for habitat and food, aggressive behaviour, reducing water quality, disturbing aquatic vegetation and potentially spreading diseases.

“The Northern Tablelands region features some spectacular waterways, numerous rare species of fish and great recreational fishing. If Tilapia become established in the region, native fish, local communities that rely on tourism and stock and domestic water users may all be affected” said Mr. Carruthers.

Northern Tablelands Local Land Services Manager Biosecurity & Emergency Services, Melissa McLeod said, “Northern Tablelands Local Land Services is considering opportunities for pest fish management as part of the Northern Tablelands Regional Pest Animal Plan, however the best form of pest fish control is prevention. Possessing, selling and moving live Tilapia is illegal and heavy penalties apply. The more people that understand the importance of these rules and know how to correctly identify and report Tilapia to the appropriate authorities, the better.”

Northern Tablelands Local Land Services is working with landholders and the community to reverse the decline of native fish through river and wetland rehabilitation programs.

To help stop the spread of Tilapia:

  • Don’t throw caught Tilapia back into a waterway, it’s illegal — kill the fish humanely, take a photo and either bury them or put them in a bin.
  • Don’t use Tilapia as bait (dead or alive).
  • Don’t stock dams or ponds with Tilapia—stock native local fish instead.
  • Learn how to correctly identify Tilapia by visiting
  • Report Tilapia catches and sightings as soon as possible.

To report Tilapia sightings or catches, illegal movement or stocking in NSW, call your local Fisheries Office, NSW DPI Aquatic Pest Hotline (02) 4916 3877 (24 hour hotline), email or visit

In any case of uncertainty about identification of a fish that you have caught, take a good quality photo and call the Aquatic Pest Hotline immediately for confirmation.

The Keep Tilapia Out project is supported through funding from the Murray-Darling Basin Authority.

Photo caption: Tilapia have pale olive to silver-grey bodies, with a long continuous dorsal (top) fin that ends in a sharp point, and can grow to more than 36 cm.

Photo Credit: A. Norris, Qld DAF.

Click for larger photo