In the heart of the Biedouw River Valley, nestled among the breathtaking landscapes of South Africa, lies a conservation endeavour of paramount importance, the Biedouw Restoration Project, which is co-funded by Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve & Wellness Retreat. Initiated by the Freshwater Research Centre supported by members of the Bushmans Kloof team, this project aims to restore the natural balance of the Biedouw River ecosystem by removing invasive fish species and safeguarding the habitat of indigenous fish.

The team from Fresh Water Research Centre

On the 19th March 2024, a crucial step in the Biedouw Restoration Project was undertaken, the Freshwater Research Centre conducted a baseline survey of fish species within the proposed treatment zone. This survey is a comprehensive assessment of the diversity and abundance of fish inhabiting the 9km stretch of the river. Led by passionate conservationists, the survey team meticulously documented the presence of various fish species, laying the foundation for future conservation efforts. Local community members also played an integral role in preparing the terrain for the survey, contributing to the creation of access paths and the clearance of vegetation along the Biedouw River.

Setting up the nets to survey the movement of different species of fish

Venturing into the upper reaches of the Biedouw River, the survey team delved into the native fish zone, spanning less than 1km. Here, the indigenous fish species thrive in their natural habitat. Among them are the Clanwilliam Red Fin, Clanwilliam Sawfin, Clanwilliam Yellowfish, and the elusive Clanwilliam Sandfish.

A Clanwilliam Redfin

The image above captures the vibrant hues of the Clanwilliam Redfin, symbolising the resilience of native fish species in the face of ecological challenges. All fish were measured and recorded before we released them back into the river.

Clanwilliam Sandfish

A spotted bass, their big mouths and big appetites are no match for the smaller indigenous fish of the Biedouw River 

Descending downstream, the survey team encountered the stark reality of invasive species' impact on the ecosystem. Nets deployed below the Bass Barrier Waterfall revealed the absence of small indigenous fish, outcompeted by the voracious appetites of invasive bass. The once-thriving populations of indigenous species faced depletion, as the invasive bass dominated the ecosystem. However, feeding marks on rocks bore testimony to the presence of Clanwilliam Sandfish, these resilient grazers are vital for maintaining ecological balance. With determination and dedication, the team from the Freshwater Research Centre is striving to restore the delicate equilibrium of the Biedouw River, envisioning a future where indigenous fish species flourish unhindered. 

As the Biedouw Restoration Project progresses, a vision of a revitalised river ecosystem emerges. With each step forward, the project embodies the spirit of collaboration and commitment towards safeguarding the natural heritage of the Biedouw River Valley. It is vital to embark on this journey of restoration, to ensure a legacy of biodiversity and ecological harmony for generations to come.