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King River survey yields encouraging fish finds

Surveys in the mid-King River during February showed encouraging signs for the health of the fish community, including several threatened species.

The first confirmed Trout Cod was detected in this river reach in decades, and juvenile Macquarie Perch recorded near Edi are likely to be the first natural recruits since the 1950s.

There were good numbers of Two-spined Blackfish, River Blackfish and Murray Cod, including juvenile fish detected at many sites. Surveys also found Southern Pygmy Perch between Moyhu and Edi; a significant find for this small fish species whose numbers have declined in the Murray Darling Basin and are often only found in small isolated populations.

The survey results have been hailed as an indication of the success of habitat works undertaken by North East Catchment Management Authority (CMA). This work has been funded by the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) as part of the record $222 million investment in waterway and catchment health, as well as by Recreational Fishing Licence fees which are managed by the Victorian Fisheries Authority to improve recreational fishing.

The survey by scientists from the Arthur Rylah Institute, supported by project officers from the North East CMA and DELWP, had been postponed as a result of the 2019-20 bushfires, heavy rainfall during the 2020-21 summer and the COVID-19 shutdowns.

Senior Scientist with the Arthur Rylah Institute, Dr Zeb Tonkin, said it had been more than a decade since an extensive survey had been undertaken on this King River reach.

“These results help the CMA and DELWP, by providing insights on the current health of the fish community and the effectiveness of prior river rehabilitation efforts, as well as guiding the focus of future river works programs,” Dr Tonkin said.

“For example, extensive flood recovery and instream fish habitat works have occurred on this section of the river and a fishway will be constructed in the future.”

Dr Tonkin said finding Trout Cod and Macquarie Perch was particularly exciting, since these nationally threatened species have declined substantially in numbers and distribution. In fact, by the late 1980s, only one naturally occurring population of Trout Cod was known, in the Murray River between Yarrawonga and Cobram.

Recently, both species have been re-established in the Ovens River with stocking and translocation actions by the Victorian Fisheries Authority and DELWP, and it is likely individuals have started migrating into the King River system.

North East CMA senior project officer, Andrew Briggs, said these encouraging results for both Macquarie Perch and Trout Cod in the mid King River, tie in with the many long-term efforts occurring across Victoria to recover these important species, including in the nearby Ovens River.

“These efforts which range from restoring instream and streamside habitats, providing water for the environment, restocking, community education and fishing regulations, are all starting to pay off,” Mr Briggs said.

“These river rehabilitation efforts are achieved through strong and ongoing collaborations between the CMA, DELWP, ARI, Murray Darling Basin Authority, VFA, community groups and many local landholders.

“It’s a genuine team effort.”

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