Mid-Murray Floodplain Fish Recovery Plan
Have your say!
The Murray Natural Resource Management (NRM) Tri-State Alliance is developing a Native Fish Recovery Plan for the Mid-Murray Floodplain Recovery Reach (MMFRR) to increase fish populations and recover threatened species by improving waterway health and connectivity – great news for fish and for communities.
We are looking for input and feedback on the draft plan:
- Which areas in the Mid-Murray region do you value for native fish?
- Do you support the actions in the draft plan?
- Are there additional actions or opportunities you think are missing in the draft plan?
Background and Context
Native fish numbers have decreased by about 90 per cent across the Murray-Darling Basin since early European occupation but a plan is underway to change this staggering decline.
The MMFRR program area of approximately 10,000 km2, including permanent waterways, ephemeral creeks, across the Victorian and NSW Murray Floodplain, includes:
- The Murray River from Yarrawonga to the Wakool-Murray Junction.
- Lower Broken Creek from its confluence with Boosey Creek near Katamatite to its confluence with the Murray River at Barmah Forest, including the anabranch Nine Mile Creek.
- Lower Campaspe River from its junction with the Murray River at Echuca upstream of Lake Eppalock.
- Barmah-Millewa Forest complex, its floodplain including the channels, creeks, and wetlands, as well as the main stem of the Murray River that passes the forest.
- Edward River from the offtake at Picnic Point downstream to Deniliquin, including the Gulpa, Bullatale and Tuppal creeks and the connection to the Millewa/Gulpa Forests.
- Lower Goulburn, from the Goulburn Weir to its confluence with the Murray River.
The draft plan identifies actions to increase populations of Murray cod, trout cod, silver perch, golden perch, freshwater catfish, river blackfish, and Threatened small wetland specialist fish. Learn more about the Tri-State Alliance.
The draft plan
The draft plan identifies key threats to native fish and actions to address these. Some of the highest priority actions are summarised below:
A key recommendation is to increase woody habitat in the Murray River between Barmah Choke and Goulburn Junction. This stretch of river, approximately 100 km, has poor instream habitat but is close to a good source of drifting Murray and trout cod larvae – from Barmah upstream to Yarrawonga. The right habitat would likely have a rapid impact and increase the number of Murray cod, trout cod and golden and silver perch in the system.
Increased river connectivity
The Denil fishway on Lock 11 at Mildura is not functioning effectively and is a major barrier to fish movement. Upgrading the fishway will allow fish to move from the lower Murray to the mid-Murray, which is critical for highly migratory species like golden and silver perch. The poorly functioning fishway at Rices Weir requires upgrade, as it restricts access to most of the Lower Broken Creek and is very close to the confluence with the Murray River. Fishways are also needed on three barriers in the lower Campaspe River to open ~140 km of river for fish to move, breed and feed.
Increased floodplain connectivity
A key recommendation in the draft plan is refining the delivery of water for the environment to forest creeks and wetlands in the Barmah-Millewa and Edward-Wakool systems. This requires the upgrade of water delivery infrastructure, such as Mary Ada and Gulf regulators (including fishways), and modifications to the delivery of flows to the systems. The action aims to increase the length of flowing forest creeks by 100s of km and increase the amount of wetland habitat available. If achieved, it would likely increase the overall productivity of these systems, increase the health of aquatic vegetation, and increase habitat available for Murray cod , trout cod and highly Threatened small fish such as southern pygmy perch and southern purple spotted gudgeon.
The Tri-state Alliance works with partners to coordinate planning and actions across a large area and between different management authorities. The draft Plan identifies four cross-jurisdiction opportunities:
- Consider that local scale management actions (e.g., re-snagging or water for the environment flows) may have benefits that are seen at other locations. A key knowledge gap is the effect of Torrumbarry’s weir pool and undershot gates on drifting eggs and larvae, particularly for golden and silver perch. Many of these fish may have come from long distances upstream or in Murray River tributaries, and experimentally alleviating the impacts of Torrumbarry Weir and investigating effects on fish recruitment will provide invaluable information for management of these species across the entire Recovery Reach.
- Detailed MMFRR-wide stream barrier identification and prioritisation. There are several barriers identified across the project area that negatively impact connectivity in the MMFRR and are high priorities for removal. To prioritise the removal of barriers across the whole of the MMFRR, more is needed to understand costs and ecological outcomes.
- Tri-state reintroduction plan for small-bodied wetland fishes to support the coordinated translocation of locally extinct species, guided by best practice. The Tri-state Alliance is a good vehicle to encourage cooperation between different management agencies and ensure the best outcomes for fishes. This action is underway.
- Coordinated flows for highly mobile species. This requires the development of a fully seasonal integrated hydrograph, over multiple years, that considers fish population processes in both the main stem of the Murray River and connecting tributaries.
The Murray NRM Tri-State Alliance acknowledges the Traditional Owners of the project area, their rich and enduring connection to Country , and pays respects to Elders past, present and emerging.
Main Photo: Reedy lagoon, ideal habitat for threatened floodplain specialist fish. Credit: Peter Rose.