R. Wager and P. Jackson
Environment Australia, June 1993
ISBN 0 6421 6818 0
Species recovery outline: Blind Cave Eel
Scientific name: Ophisternon candidum
English Name: Blind Cave Eel
Species taxonomic status: Formally described by Mees, 1962.
Species survival status:
- Action plan status: Poorly Known.
- Australian Society for Fish Biology status: Indeterminate.
- Proposed new IUCN criteria status: Insufficient information to allow classification with this scheme.
Former distribution: Described from only four specimens collected in Tantabiddi Well, Cape Range National Park, Western Australia. Also observed in Kundammurra Well at Yardie Creek Homestead and in Pilgramuna Well within Cape Range National Park. Within the last fifteen years only observed at two locations: Gnamma Hole and Mowbowra Well. This species was probably distributed throughout the subterranean system of water below the coastal plain from just south of Exmouth, north to North West Cape and south to Yardie Creek.
Current distribution: Unknown. Suspected to be as above, but may be decreased due to habitat modification.
Habitat: Subterranean caverns and fissures.
Reasons for decline: It is not known if this species has declined over all or part of its range. This species appears to be extremely rare, although this may be due to the inaccessibility of its habitat.
There was some concern over the continued access to, and viability of, populations at Gnamma Hole and Mowbowra Well. Mowbowra Well was being filled with junk (by tourists?) and the Well sides were in danger of collapsing. Gnamma Hole is 60 m from and connected to Dozer Cave. Dozer Cave was the site of gravel extraction. The mining operation ceased, and the surrounding area 'landscaped' leaving several hectares of bare red clay draining into Dozer Cave. During moderate rain (July 1991) large amounts of mud washed into the Cave and resulted in severe silting of the subterranean system. Both these sites are being rehabilitated by the Shire of Exmouth with direction from the Department of Conservation and Land Management.
Conservation reserves on which species occurs: Cape Range National Park.
Other public lands on which species occurs: None known.
Other land on which species occurs: Yardie Creek Homestead.
Is knowledge about species adequate for objectives and actions to be defined accurately? (If not provide list of additional studies required):
- Basic distributional and biological information is required.
- Compilation of hydrological information including flow rates, flow volumes and catchment or replenishment areas.
- Identification of existing or inferred threatening processes required.
- Develop a plan for the management of the biota and water resources of the North West Cape.
Management actions already initiated:
- Dr W.F. Humphries has received a grant from the Australian Heritage Commission for field surveys of the North West Cape in 1993.
Management actions required:
- Declaration of additional conservation reserves: Yes.
- Both Gnamma Hole and Mowbowra Well are outside reserve areas.
- Habitat management: Yes.
- Continue maintenance of access points to subterranean system.
- Feral animal control: No.
- Translocation or re-establishment of populations: No.
- Captive breeding: No.
- Other: No.
Organisations responsible for conservation of species:
- Department of Conservation and Land Management.
Other organisations or individuals involved:
- Dr W.F. Humphreys, Senior Curator, Western Australian Museum.
Can recovery plan be carried out with existing resources?: No.
- A study to determine the distribution and abundance would require one biologist and one technician for two years – $147 000, plus operating expenses of $20 000 per year.
Total: $187 000
- The subterranean fauna of North West Cape is unique in Australia. In addition to the blind cave eel, the blind gudgeon (Milyeringa veritas), two shrimp species (Stygiocaris spp.), one amphipod, and the only representative in the southern hemisphere of the subfamily Thermospaenacae also occur in the system. It is likely that the blind gudgeon will be listed as Vulnerable or Potentially Threatened on the ASFB listing in the near future. This recovery outline will help to protect all species.