The Saving Sandfish project
The Saving Sandfish project is a multi-partner, collaborative effort to save South Africa's most threatened migratory freshwater fish, the Clanwilliam sandfish. Sandfish were once widespread in the Olifants-Doring Catchment, but due to threats like invasive species impacts and water over-abstraction, their distribution has contracted and fragmented to the point where today they are only known to spawn in two tributaries.
During springtime, remaining sandfish migrate up tributaries like the Biedouw River to spawn. During 2020, the Biedouw spawning migration totalled less than 100 adult sandfish, which laid thousands of eggs which hatched into tiny sandfish. However, repeated recruitment failure, due to over-abstraction of water and impacts of invasive species, has resulted in an aging and declining wild sandfish population. The sandfish is headed rapidly for extinction unless swift and decisive conservation action is taken.
To this end, the Saving Sandfish project is working with land owners, NGOs and government conservation organisations on innovative conservation actions to increase sandfish survival and thereby boost sandfish numbers in the wild. Project progress is being chronicled through the Saving Sandfish web series produced by Fishwater Films.
Sponsor a sandfish
To boost sandfish survival, we are planning to rescue 10,000 juvenile sandfish from the Biedouw River before they fall victim to alien fish (e.g. bass) predation, run out of water, or both. The rescued fish will be relocated to 'Sandfish Sanctuaries' - farm dams cleared of alien fish to create safe habitats for young sandfish to spend their first year of life. Once these fish reach bass-proof size, they will be released back into the wild and their movement and survival tracked to gauge the success of this conservation intervention.
The fish rescue is a collaborative effort involving NGO's, land owners, community members, students and other volunteers. All donations will go directly toward rescuing and relocating juvenile sandfish to safe habitats, rehabilitating sandfish habitat to create safe refugia within transformed riverscapes, collecting robust scientific data to monitor the success of these interventions and communicating the project story and findings to build further support for freshwater biodiversity conservation in South Africa.