Gavin Butler
DPI (NSW Government)

Gavin Butler bio photoDr Gavin Butler

Senior research scientist, NSW Department of Primary Industries

See Dr Butler’s full research profile here.

Research outputs linked to policy change and decision-making

Within the freshwater ecosystems research unit of Fisheries NSW, Dr Butler is a principal investigator (PI) on a number of large research projects focused on restoration of native fish throughout NSW. He collaborates on a number of other projects with fellow Fisheries NSW scientists and with fisheries scientists from other states and territories across Australia. The funding for all projects he has been involved in since 2014, as well as those going forward, totals over $16 million, with $6.5 million of this amount flowing directly to Fisheries NSW for research now and into the future. Dr Butler’s research focus has converged into 3 main themes: monitoring the effects of environmental water releases on fish populations in the Murray–Darling Basin, enhancing NSW freshwater recreational fisheries by undertaking research that helps drive management actions, and increasing our understanding to support restoration and recovery freshwater fish communities in NSW coastal rivers.

Dr Butler leads two long-term intervention monitoring programs in the northern Murray–Darling basin (MDB) and works in partnership on a number of other smaller environmental water projects in the MDB, including a border-rivers intervention program in collaboration with Fisheries Queensland and a short-term intervention monitoring program in the mid-Darling River. Other research projects have included a Murray–Darling basin-wide otolith micro-chemistry project and a large scale acoustic-telemetry project. Within the recreational fishing area, Dr Butler is the NSW PI on a number of projects including a national program funded by the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation and NSW Recreational Fishing Trust titled ‘Building a stronger, more resilient and sustainable Murray cod fishery’. He is also PI on the citizen science ‘bass catch’ program and the ‘Murray cod – study of an icon in the border rivers’ program. Both of these projects are long-running collaborations with a number of government agencies and public organisations, with bass catch, for example, now being running for over 28 consecutive years. His coastal freshwater fish research has involved 2 main programs, Fishtrack and North Coast Ecohealth.  Fishtrack is a long-running program that includes general fish community monitoring in the Clarence River as well as telemetric tracking of a number of key fish species found across the NSW north coast bio-region. The North Coast Ecohealth program is a collaborative program involving Fisheries NSW, University of New England, North Coast Local Land Services and a number of local government areas. The aim is to not only describe the relative health of the fish communities of the North Coast regions basins and regions through time but also the general condition of the macro-invertebrates and aquatic vegetation as well as the regions water quality.

Current academic employment and positions

  • senior research scientist, Department of Regional NSW – Fisheries.

Highest qualification

  • 2009: PhD, Southern Cross University.

Major prizes, medals and honours

  • 2008: Australian Society of Fish Biology and American Fisheries Society Travel Award: Marking and Tagging Symposium, New Zealand
  • 2001: NSW Fisheries John Holliday Conservation Award
  • 1998–2000: Deans List, Southern Cross University, School of Resource Science.

Roles on government or regional organisation committees

  • Whilst the primary focus of his role at Fisheries NSW remains research-based, Dr Butler is often called upon to provide policy and management advice on a range of fisheries-related matters. Over the last 4 years, the focus has shifted somewhat to providing input into the efficient and effective use of environmental water across the MDB to ensure the best outcomes for fish. Dr Butler is also regularly asked to provide input into compliance and management issues relating to key recreational and threatened fish species by both state and federal agencies. His research has also directly resulted in changes to the legislation surrounding the management of a number of fish species in both coastal and inland rivers.

Links with non-government groups or networks

  • Dr Butler leads the fisheries research team based at Grafton Fisheries Center and have been directly involved in a number of responses to the drought and bushfires to rescue and secure threatened species for a captive breeding program.

My Projects

Current projectCompleted project
NESP RLH, 2021-2027NESP, 2015-2021NERP, 2012-2015TRaCK, 2005-present