Standard Talk (15 mins) Australian Society for Fish Biology Conference 2022

An Analysis of Farmer Intentions to Install Fish-Friendly Irrigation Pump Screens (#60)

Nicholas Pawsey 1 , Tahmid Nayeem 1
  1. Charles Sturt University, Thurgoona, NSW, Australia

Fish-friendly irrigation screens are designed to protect native fish and support irrigation farmers to operate efficiently. Despite the potential ecological and financial benefits, the adoption rate of fish-friendly irrigation screens by Australian irrigation farmers has been relatively limited and there have been few attempts to understand attitudes towards the technologies. This study addressed this gap through a NSW-wide fish-friendly irrigation screen survey which captured current screening practices and experiences and irrigation farmer attitudes towards the technologies. Whilst most irrigation farmers currently have some form of pump screen, less than 10% of installed screens were fish-friendly. Of those which do not currently have a fish-friendly screen, 8% indicated that they would be likely/very likely to install such a screen in the next two years.

Few survey participants indicated that they experience regular fish or debris blockages within their irrigation systems. Despite this, most participants agreed that the installation of fish-friendly screens would help to protect native fish, enhance the irrigation industry’s environmental reputation, and prevent irrigation system blockages. There was also strong backing for further government and industry support to enable irrigation farmers to install fish-friendly screens.

The results of further empirical analysis, which drew on the Theory of Planned Behaviour and Diffusion of Innovation theory, revealed how screening intentions were significantly impacted by irrigation farmer attitudes towards the benefits from screening, perceived social pressure to install screens, farmer abilities (i.e. knowledge, financial, time) to screen and current experiences with irrigation system debris blockages. Collectively, these results provide valuable insights for government and fisheries agencies across the Murray-Darling Basin which are actively seeking to enhance fish-friendly screen adoption rates.