Technician Mitch Turner with a rescued Eastern Freshwater Cod being monitored at the Grafton Fisheries Centre.
Technician Mitch Turner with a rescued Eastern Freshwater Cod being monitored at the Grafton Fisheries Centre.

DPI protecting species from multiple threats

RELOCATIONS of threatened fish species from the Clarence catchment area and across the state have been conducted by the NSW Department of Primary Industries to help protect native species from challenging environmental conditions.

NSW DPI senior fisheries manager threatened species, Trevor Daly, said drought, high temperatures, bushfires and heavy rainfall have placed already threatened fish species across NSW under even greater pressure this summer.

“In order to save as many fish as possible from the record-breaking drought and bushfires, rescues have taken place in the Clarence and Richmond River catchments and in the Gwydir, Border Rivers, Macquarie, Lachlan, and Upper Murray catchments in the Murray-Darling Basin,” Dr Daly said.

“Small-bodied threatened fish like the southern pygmy perch, southern purple spotted gudgeon, olive perchlet and oxleyan pygmy perch have been particularly at risk over this challenging summer,” he said.

NSW DPI Grafton Fisheries Centre staff from left, Fisheries Technician John St Vincent Welch, Snr Research Scientist Gavin Butler and Snr Fisheries Technician Mitch Turner.
NSW DPI Grafton Fisheries Centre staff from left, Fisheries Technician John St Vincent Welch, Snr Research Scientist Gavin Butler and Snr Fisheries Technician Mitch Turner.

“Eastern freshwater cod, the smaller eastern cousin of our iconic Murray cod in the west, are facing an additional risk with heavy rainfall after the bushfires driving sediment and ash into the Clarence­ catchment, deoxygenating the water, leading to fish deaths.”

Dr Daly said threatened fish rescued during the multiple operations to date included 1630 olive perchlet, 740 southern pygmy perch, 292 oxleyan pygmy perch, 107 southern purple spotted gudgeon, 98 eastern freshwater cod, 79 silver perch and 34 eel-tailed catfish.

Dr Daly said the rescued fish have been relocated to areas where they will have the best possible chance of surviving including the NSW DPI Grafton Fisheries Centre.

Grafton fisheries research scientist, Dr Gavin Butler said “the fish kept in captivity will help provide us with the genetic diversity required to establish a captive breeding program that will act as an insurance policy for when conditions improve and we can release their offspring back into the wild.”

Dr Daly said the NSW DPI hatcheries in Grafton, Port Stephens and Narrandera, as well as facilities at Western Plains Zoo had been mobilised as part of the threatened species rescue program, with a combination of tanks and open ponds set up specifically to house these fish.

He said in all, DPI Fisheries had rescued more than 5000 native fish from all corners of the state since operations began.

“We’ve been battling the worst drought on record and we know we can’t save every fish, but we are doing what we can to save as many as we can. We are also gearing up for potential fish deaths that are likely to occur in response to heavy rain events.”

The NSW Government’s $10 million commitment to support native fish through the drought and bushfire season will be critical in assisting the recovery of populations when conditions improve.

The Clarence community are encouraged to report sightings of threatened fish to help identify where actions may be required to prevent fish deaths. Community members are encouraged to report any fish deaths or observations through the Fishers Watch phoneline on 1800 043 536.

For more information or to report a threatened species, download the FishSmart app, phone Fishers Watch on 1800 043 536 or go to www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/fishing



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