OzFish: Fish forensics indicate not all is lost in the Georges River for the Macquarie perch

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Macquarie perch. Image: Zeb Tonkin

NOT all is lost for the endangered Macquarie perch in Sydney’s Georges River after environmental DNA (eDNA) sampling of the water determined the presence of the endangered species in the waterway.

The DNA sampling project in south-western Sydney is a partnership between fishing conservation charity OzFish, through its partnership with Landcare NSW and Campbelltown City Council which activates the recreational fishing community in hands-on conservation efforts through citizen science.

Local volunteers assisted researchers by collecting water samples in a highly technical and coordinated response at various locations along the river. The samples are then analysed in a laboratory to pick up tiny DNA fragments left in the water by different species.

Recent results showed isolated platypus populations are present and importantly for fish enthusiasts, the endangered Macquarie perch has also shown up in the tests.

Angus Fanning, OzFish’s Project Manager for Coastal NSW said fish habitat experts, endangered species researchers and conservationists are excited by the findings.

“The results are very promising for the community and for the fishery. Macquarie perch is only known in a few waterways and some of these had been impacted heavily by the fires and recent floods, destroying entire populations of Macquarie perch,” he said.

“OzFish has had anecdotal feedback that the Macquarie Perch was still surviving in this waterway but with no actual evidence, no one had seen one there since the 1990s. A positive result through this very technical accurate eDNA sampling is a real win for the Georges River.

“Macquarie Perch was once one of the most abundant freshwater species, but it has been diminished over recent decades to habitat loss and degradation.”

Data derived from the project will assist Campbelltown City Council and conservation groups like OzFish to further investigate the key issues, threats and locations which are allowing the species to thrive in urban-dominated systems along the Georges River.

These findings will then inform target areas to enhance habitat improvements such as restoration works and revegetation or address other indirect threatening processes to the species such as reduction of water quality through better management of runoff and point source pollution.

The next step is to get a local OzFish chapter up and running in Southwest Sydney and OzFish is calling on local recreational fishers to get involved. For more information on their continued work to protect and restore fish habitat across Australia, get in touch with on 1800 431 308 or email OzFish at info@ozfish.org.au.

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