Helping fish to repopulate

By Ashlea Witoslawski

The Murray hardyhead has been given a greater chance at survival, thanks to the help of environmental agencies.

North Central Catchment Management Authority, Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, the Arthur Rylah Institute and the Victorian Environmental Water Holder have been working at Lake Elizabeth near Kerang to create a suitable habitat and conditions for repopulation.

The Murray hardyhead is a small native fish that was once widespread in rivers and wetlands of the lower Murray-Darling Basin.

‘‘The species has suffered a severe decline, with less than 10 populations remaining in the basin, and the world,’’ North Central CMA project officer Amy Russell said.

‘‘We are trying our best to prevent further localised extinctions and to increase their numbers by finding new wetland habitats for the species.’’

In 2015, a small number of fish were moved to Lake Elizabeth in an attempt to establish a viable population.

‘‘Lake Elizabeth’s elevated salinity and abundant plant life provided us with an opportunity to create beneficial conditions for them,’’ Ms Russell said.

‘‘Through deliveries of water for the environment, we were able to bring the salinity level down considerably, but still keep it high enough to keep predators such as carp out.’’

Arthur Rylah Institute fish ecologist Daniel Stoessel was delighted to have found Murray hardyhead numbers during a visit to Lake Elizabeth in April this year.

‘‘We were surprised at what we found,’’ he said.

‘‘That is an outstanding result and one we are all very excited about.’’

Ms Russell said the results could not have come at a better time.

‘‘Everyone has been working really hard over the past four years, and this result shows how successful relocation can be,’’ she said.

‘‘This has given us even more impetus to work together and keep this critically endangered species from extinction.’’