In August last year we reported on the Southern Pygmy Perch (SPP) and the recovery efforts happening in the Upper Lachlan area. Recently, they have made quite the splash in the Mid-Murray Recovery Reach!

The North Central Catchment Management Authority (CMA) is applying their Native Fish Recovery Plan in partnership with the Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Action’s Arthur Rylah Institute (ARI), the Victorian Government’s Nature Fund, the Murray-Darling Basin Authority’s Native Fish Recovery Strategy, and local fish conservation groups – to genetically rescue populations of SPP.

Southern pygmy perch. Photo credit: John Lenagan.

If you are familiar with the plight of the SPP, you’ll know that they once thrived throughout the Murray-Darling Basin (MDB), commonly found in wetlands and creeks. Unfortunately, the species is now considered nationally threatened, with loss of genetic variability being a key factor in the remaining populations.

Many threatened fish species now persist as small, isolated populations with no opportunity for inter- mixing. Almost all of these isolated populations are slowly losing their genetic diversity through chance events and inbreeding and this reduced diversity means they are less able to respond to new challenges like climate change. Genetic integrity is also challenged by hybridisation between closely related species and forms/genetic lineages within a species.

In September last year, the team at North Central CMA joined First Nations people from the Yorta Yorta Nation Aboriginal Corporation Woka Walla works crew to release more than 2,800 SPP into Cameron’s Creek in Gunbower Forest.

The fish were raised in dams and wetlands around Bendigo with help from the City of Greater Bendigo, and this was the largest release into a wild site to date.

Southern Pygmy Perch, Nannoperca australis, from Darby River, Wilsons Promontory, Victoria, October 2011. Source: David Paul / Museums Victoria. License: CC by Attribution.

Peter Rose from North Central CMA stated, “they were released just before breeding, so the young would grow up in their new habitat and adapt well. The stocking approach was guided by a population model developed by ARI, and using this approach has really paid off”.

The site was surveyed in December and 44 adult SPP along with six new juvenile recruits were found.

“That may not sound like a lot, but it is, considering the site,” Dr Rose said.“It shows they have successfully bred in Cameron’s Creek and there is a good chance tens of thousands of them will establish there.”

This recent update on the plight of the SPP is a testament to the amazing work that can be achieved through team effort and active partnerships. Keep up the great work all!

Original publication prepared by North Central CMA

Pygs flying thanks to team effort

Featured image: One of the Magnificent Six species, the Southern Pygmy Perch can be found in the floodplains in the Mid-Murray region.

Source: L. Pearce

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