10 May 2023

Low tide the likely cause of Cooktown groper's death

| Cape York Weekly
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This Queensland groper likely died as a result of a low tide in Cooktown.

ONE of Cooktown’s popular giant Queensland gropers has died after becoming trapped in mud in the Endeavour River.

A school of nine groper – which can grow up to 400kg and nearly three metres long – live around the Cooktown wharf area and are popular with both locals and visitors.

Kate and Duncan Smith from Skydog Vets carried out an autopsy on the dead female fish, which was reported beached on the mud at low tide by several boaties.

“There were no obvious injuries and you could see a large track in the mud where the groper had tried to escape so it’s likely it died due to stranding,” Ms Smith said.

“Last week we had very low tides and we suspect she was trying to cross the mudflat and got trapped.”

The local groper population has been having hooks, line and other tackle removed from their mouths, gills and bodies on a regular basis, enticed with fish frames to come close enough for the vets to remove the tackle.

“We considered the ethics of feeding the fish before deciding to do it,” Ms Smith said.

“We feed only fresh fish that would make up their natural diet and limit the amount so that they aren’t dependent on being fed.

“Without surveillance and removal of the tackle, particularly strong braid line, many of the tangles would have been fatal.”

Ms Smith encouraged local anglers to help protect the wharf gropers by using chemically sharpened carbon hooks that rust quickly, rather than stainless steel.

Follow the Cooktown Groper Feeding and Tackle Removal page on Facebook for more information on the gropers.

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