Macquarie perch release

NSW DPI Fisheries Manager Luke Pearce releasing the Macquarie perch.

A SIGNIFICANT event for an iconic endangered native fish species occurred last week when over 7,000 juvenile Macquarie perch bred at Narrandera Fisheries Centre from captured wild stock were released into Wimburndale Dam last Thursday by NSW DPI Fisheries after 70 years of local extinction from the Macquarie River catchment.

Macquarie perch were first identified from the Macquarie River catchment around 1824 but by the 1950’s were considered to be locally extinct. Modified habitat, barriers to fish passage, changes to natural stream-flows and cold water discharge from water storage dams which impact natural spawning events had contributed to the decline of native species however the introduction of redfin perch & their rapid spread throughout inland streams has resulted in rapid decline of many native fish species including isolated remaining populations of Macquarie perch.

The introduced redfin perch is a voracious predatory invasive pest species that are known to consume small native species and the young of larger native species and is the main host for epizootic haematopoietic necrosis virus (EHNV). Laboratory trials have demonstrated that Macquarie perch are among several Australian native species that are extremely susceptible to the disease carried by redfin.

DPI have conducted research to determine potential release refuges within the former geographical range of Macquarie perch where redfin are not present and have little chance of access to the refuge sites.

A successful ground breaking project in the Abercrombie River catchment where hatchery reared juvenile Macquarie perch spawned from wild stock captured in the Abercrombie were introduced into a redfin free safe haven over several years and monitored annually which resulted in the natural spawning of the stocked fish around 5 years after the initial stocking and subsequent successful natural recruitment in following years gives added confidence that the latest stockings will attain similar success to preserve the species and establish a new population in the Macquarie River catchment.

The success of the Macquarie Perch Recovery Project is vital to maintaining the species and protecting the once widespread Australian native fish from extinction.

It is illegal to target or be in possession of a Macquarie perch and if accidentally captured they must be released unharmed. It will take an ongoing concerted effort by all including state local government authorities to protect Macquarie perch habitat. It is hoped that future stockings & natural recruitment through successful spawning events will one day see recreational anglers enjoy the thrill of being able to see these iconic aussie natives in their natural environment

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