Endangered fish released near Bendigo

By Rodney Woods

Eight hundred captive-bred southern pygmy perch have been released into wetlands near Bendigo.

The North Central Catchment Management Authority and the City of Greater Bendigo have teamed up to release the fish, with a further 800 to be released in March into the same wetlands in the Bendigo Creek and Axe Creek catchments, followed by a release into two Gunbower Forest wetlands later in the year.

The project is part of North Central CMA’s Native Fish Recovery Plan, and the Tri-State Alliance ‘Magnificent Six’ project.

Southern pygmy perch were once common in the wetlands and slow-flowing creeks of the southern Murray-Darling Basin.

They are now endangered in NSW and South Australia and their numbers are rapidly declining in Victoria.

Southern pygmy perch were last recorded in Gunbower Forest in 1997, and it’s thought the species has been locally extinct from Bendigo Creek since the 1860s gold rush.

“Since the 1970s, introduced fish such as redfin, trout and carp, as well as habitat destruction, altered flows, disconnection of floodplain wetlands, and more recently the millennium drought, have contributed to their decline,” North Central CMA project officer Peter Rose said.

In 2017, North Central CMA received funding from DELWP's Biodiversity On-ground Action program, which enabled it to map the distribution of southern pygmy perch and identify suitable source populations for future translocation to surrogate habitats.

“We have collected fish from the remaining populations and set up a captive breeding program with a specialist southern pygmy perch breeder,” Mr Rose said.

“The fish are now ready for re-stocking into rehabilitated habitats.

“We’ll be undertaking monitoring over the next year to determine if the fish released into the Bendigo and Gunbower wetlands are breeding.”