The Murray-Darling rainbowfish, which was once prevalent across the Murray-Darling Basin, has made a surprise comeback in the Gunbower Forest wetlands.
The surprise discovery came during a recent fish count in the wetlands and proved that conditions in the wetlands were on the improve.
‘‘Our environmental watering regime in Gunbower Forest and Gunbower Creek over the past three years has helped set up good conditions,’’ North Central Catchment Management Authority project officer Genevieve Smith said.
‘‘We have put the right amount of water through the region at the right time which has created a productive environment for a lot of fish, frogs and other animals,’’ Ms Smith said.
‘‘So, when the floods came late last year, the Murray-Darling rainbowfish responded, big time.
‘‘They haven’t been found in the forest wetlands for years.
‘‘It is really big news. We have been working hard since we built the Hipwell Rd regulator to try to rehabilitate the forest and the wetlands after the drought and build their resilience.’’
Ms Smith said the little fish, which grows to about 7cm, was now a threatened species, after numbers had reduced over the years.
‘‘As the name suggests, Murray-Darling rainbowfish are usually found in the north of our catchment, but numbers have dwindled and they are now listed as threatened.
‘‘Being so small can give them an advantage at times, but when aquatic vegetation is destroyed by a changing climate, regulation and introduced fish species, they become very vulnerable.
‘‘Predator fish such as redfin and carp feed on their eggs and destroy their habitat.
‘‘On top of that, things like droughts can have significant impacts on them.
‘‘When aquatic vegetation is poor, they struggle to survive.’’
■The Victorian Environmental Water Holder prioritised the watering regime in line with its Seasonal Watering Plan 2016-17, which is available at: www.vewh.vic.gov.au