Fish stocking on the Macquarie River: Fish rescue efforts rewarded

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OVER 50,000 Murray cod fingerlings born from fish rescued from drying stretches of the Macquarie River last summer have been released back into the river this week.

Local volunteers from Inland Waterways OzFish partnered with NSW DPI Fisheries in a rescue operation to secure the insurance brood stock population, in an effort that saw over 700 native fish rescued. Three separate rescue efforts were launched in 2019, when the Macquarie River was reduced to a serious of toxic, drought-stricken pools, resulting in large-scale fish kills. 25 rescued Murray cod from 70cm up to 106cm were selected as brood stock with an appropriate genetic base to breed from, along with 60 golden perch.

With plenty of help from numerous local landholders, and assisted by specialist DPI staff, Warren locals, the Sofala CAS and local Dubbo volunteers assisted with a variety of methods including electro-fishing, netting and line fishing to successfully capture and relocate a substantial number of native fish. The teams also relocated hundreds of freshwater mussels.

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After settling in at the Narrandera Fisheries Centre, NSW DPI soon ramped-up fingerling production, with the rescued Macquarie River brood stock producing thousands and thousands of fry under the watchful eye of NSW Fisheries staff.

Inland Waterways OzFish volunteers and their mates racked up a staggering combined 12, 462 kilometres in making the rescue happen, often shuttling rescued fish between 50 and 100 kilometres at a time. 1,090 volunteer hours were also spent on the rescue, with the committee saying it was one of the most rewarding projects they have ever undertaken.

“To see these fingerlings returned today is testament to the effort that our local volunteers and landholders put in alongside NSW DPI Fisheries. So many people gave up their time, took annual leave from work, and really put the hard yards in through the dust, the mud and the flies," Inland Waterways OzFish Chapter President Matt Hansen said.

“This insurance stocking took a lot of work to make happen, but its only one step in helping our inland rivers recover. We need to stop sucking fish and life out of the rivers through our pumps, fix thermal pollution and open fish passage if we really want to see our native fish recover to an appropriate level," he said.

“We are letting 50,000 fish go here today, but one single healthy breeding Murray Cod in the wild can lay 50,000 eggs in a year, so the answer to truly thriving rivers is healthy habitat, natural flows, and complementary measures that stop the carnage that we have bestowed upon native fish. In a healthy river, they will populate on their own.”

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