Hundreds of Murray cod and other high-value native fish will be transferred from the East Goulburn Main Irrigation Channel during the coming weeks.
The partnership between Goulburn-Murray Water and the Victorian Fisheries Authority will occur at the same time organisations begin to re-stock fishing spots at Lake Benalla, Broken Creek at Nathalia and Victoria Park Lake in Shepparton.
Taking advantage of the end of the gravity irrigation season, G-MW is allowing the VFA and a contracted electro-fishing boat to enter the irrigation channel and undertake a catch-and-release program.
“A similar exercise was trialled in 2017 and proved very successful with more than 550 valuable native fish — mostly decent-size Murray cod — relocated into a more natural habitat,’’ VFA chief executive officer Travis Dowling said.
Although recent years had shown fish such as Murray cod, golden perch and blackfish could adapt to life in the East Goulburn Main Irrigation Channel and connected spur channels, G-MW said the fish could be at risk when channels were lowered for de-silting and weed spraying programs.
The fish are believed to have originally come from Nagambie Lakes and found their way into the irrigation network via Goulburn Weir.
Electro-fishing involves a boat equipped with electrodes which are lowered into the water to attract and stun fish.
They can then be netted, placed in a holding tank and transported for release into lakes and rivers.
G-MW managing director Charmaine Quick welcomed the joint effort with the VFA as a ‘‘win-win’’ for local communities, the environment and the fish.
‘‘The electrofishing boat is being funded by the VFA while G-MW is providing some manpower, transport and site safety management, so it’s a true partnership of benefit to our local communities,’’ Ms Quick said.
‘‘Importantly, the timing and locations of the electro-fishing exercise also means there is no impact on our irrigation customers.’’
Electrofishing is expected to take place across two weeks from late May with another two weeks possible later in winter.
The VFA is working with local fishing clubs and primary schools in Benalla, Nathalia and Shepparton to take part in the fish releases expected to result from the partnership.