Fitzroy Falls Spiny Crayfish

Euastacus dharawalus

Critically endangered

The Fitzroy Falls Spiny Crayfish is Australia's most critically endangered crayfish.

Listed in 2011, this Spiny Cray is one of more than 50 remarkable Euastacus species, 75% of whom are also endangered. The decline of these enigmatic shredders of the upland waterways signals a critical time for intervention.

The Fitzroy Falls Spiny Crayfish has a very limited geographic range, being found only in Wildes Meadow Creek on the NSW Southern highlands within approximately 12 km of waterway upstream from Fitzroy Falls. They occur in flowing stream conditions where the crayfish create burrows in the soft stream bed below the waterline.

Female Euastacus dharawalus, Wildes Meadow. Photo Justin Stranger

Why is the Fitzroy Falls Spiny Crayfish threatened?

  • Habitat degradation from clearing and construction of Fitzroy Falls Reservoir
  • Alteration of river flows and degradation of riparian vegetation
  • Predation from, and competition with, the common Yabby
  • Potential illegal harvest or misidentification with the common Yabby
  • Predation by exotic species including foxes, cats, and introduced salmonids

With their extremely limited distribution and low abundance, the Fitzroy Falls Spiny Crayfish is particularly vulnerable to extinction.

How to identify the Fitzroy Falls Spiny Crayfish

The Fitzroy Falls Spiny Crayfish can be confused with the common Yabby (Cherax destructor) which has been introduced to Fitzroy Falls Reservoir from the Murray Darling Basin. The Fitzroy Falls Spiny Crayfish can be distinguished by its larger size and the presence of short robust spikes on its claws, carapace and abdomen, while the Yabby is smooth shelled.

The FFSC also closely resembles the Sydney Spiny Crayfish (Euastacus spinifer). The Fitzroy Falls Spiny Crayfish has smaller rostral spines, thinner rostral carinae (the ridge-like structure between the eyes) and no dorsal abdominal boss (the humps along the centre of the tail).

Any spiny crayfish found in Yarrunga Creek, its tributaries, and the Fitzroy Falls reservoir should be assumed to be Euastacus dharawalus until positively identified.

Protecting the Fitzroy Falls Spiny Crayfish

As part of the National Landcare Program funded project ‘Securing the Future of the Fitzroy Falls Spiny Crayfish’, Local Land Services has partnered with DPI Fisheries Threatened Species Unit and University of Wollongong to undertake critical new research and population studies.

With a changing climate already variable at best, this project seeks to build species resilience by re-instating vital cooling riparian vegetation, working with land managers to protect habitat, acting to reduce competition and predation from invasive species and to undertake essential new surveys and research to better manage the species for its survival.

A substantial increase in information resources will support the community in their ongoing stewardship of these iconic freshwater emblems of healthy upland waterways. To help raise awareness of the spiny crayfish and the waterholes and waterways they call home, local Aboriginal artist Noel Wellington has carved two log totem poles with muttima (tree scarring) inspired designs and spiny crayfish images. The poles have been installed outside the NPWS Fitzroy Falls Visitors Centre along with information about this important Spiny Cray.

By 2023, the trajectory of species targeted under the Threatened Species Strategy, and other EPBC Act priority species, is stabilised or improved.

For more information, contact or the South East Local Land Services office.

See more natural resource management projects supporting threatened species in NSW.

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