26 September 2023

Rare Murray fish at home in the water

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The Department for Environment and Water (DEW) has revealed that record numbers of a critically-endangered fish have been rediscovered in the River Murray, following the successful delivery of environmental water.

DEW said the Murray hardyhead was listed as a critically-endangered species, with only a few known populations remaining in the State.

Minister for Environment and Water, David Speirs said that during a six-month monitoring program, more than 75,000 individual Murray hardyhead were caught, with almost 25,000 fish recorded during a single sampling event.

Mr Speirs said the monitoring program saw water levels raise at Lock 4 in conjunction with environmental watering of the Katarapko Floodplain near Loxton in the Riverland.

He said the monitoring program was made possible through water for the environment provided by the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder (CEWH) under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

“We know how important the delivery of environmental water is under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan and to have record numbers of critically-endangered fish rediscovered is a great result,” Mr Speirs said.

Project Manager for the Department for Environment and Water, Nathan Creeper said the weir pool raising and environmental watering of the Katarapko Floodplain provided important water flows into the Gurra Gurra wetland complex which was connected to the Lock 4 weir pool and home to the re-discovered population of Murray hardyhead.

“The Gurra Gurra Wetland Complex was heavily impacted by the millennium drought and reduced flows to South Australia and as a result has become more saline,” Mr Creeper said.

“The critically endangered Murray hardyhead have evolved to tolerate saline ecosystems and are now only found in these saline environments where they have a competitive advantage over other fish (pest and native fish species) that are less able to survive at high salinities.”

Mr Creeper said the investigation and monitoring program was undertaken by DEW in partnership with the Murraylands and the Riverland Landscape Board Wetlands team and Aqua-Save Nature Glenelg Trust and was supported by the CEWH, Nature Foundation and Berri Barmera Landcare.

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