If you’ve been following Finterest for a while, you may have noticed that we’ve been tracking the journey of the ‘Zombie Fish’ AKA the Southern Purple Spotted Gudgeon (Mongurnda adspersa) – the fish being brought back from the brink. You may recall reading about Nature Glenelg Trust in Victor Harbour and the Middle Creek Farm in Victoria for their captive breeding programs of Southern Purple Spotted Gudgeons. Last we checked in; it was still early days for the revival of the species with 13 potential surrogate sites selected for their release and some releases starting at Mildura site.

The Southern Purple Spotted Gudgeon is a nationally threatened species with a striking appearance. The fish grows to approximately 10 cm long and has purple, red and yellow spots along its side. They are critically endangered in Victoria and act as a vital part of the food chain, eating macroinvertebrates and being prey to larger fish and birds.

In February of 2023, 300 Southern Purple Spotted Gudgeon’s were released into the Winton wetlands and wetlands in Bendigo! Before they could be released, habitat had to be installed to give them the best chance of success. Groups worked to submerge rock and log structures, plant aquatic vegetation and release plenty of water bugs to feast on. This preparation work was a collective effort by the Winton Wetlands Committee of Management, the North Central and Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authorities, Victorian Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Action and other community groups interested in native fish. The release of Southern Purple Spotted Gudgeon’s was a significant community event, bringing together a multitude of groups and featured a special Acknowledgement of Country, recognising the role of the Yorta Yorta People as custodians of the land.

Nature Glenelg Trust's Sylvia Zukowski (left) with Mark Toohey (Bendigo Council) and Anthony Sloan (North Central CMA) releasing gudgeons at Winton Wetlands.

In addition to the 300 Southern Purple Spotted Gudgeon’s released, 1000 Southern Pygmy Perch were transitioned into the Winton wetlands. This species is considered to be vulnerable nationally and their re-introduction is also incredibly significant for the ecosystem.

Peter Rose releasing Southern Purple Spotted Gudgeon stock into Winton Wetlands. Credit: Winton Wetlands

The release of the fish took place on World Wetlands Day, celebrating the theme ‘it’s time for wetland restoration’. This release was particularly monumental as the Southern Purple Spotted Gudgeon and the Southern Pygmy Perch were deemed ‘locally extinct’ in the area 40 years prior. The native Southern Purple Spotted Gudgeon was declared extinct in Victoria in 1998 before a small number were discovered in a lake near Kerang in the state’s north in 2019. The presence of SPSG’s is a good indication of waterway health, and their reintroduction marks the return of critical ecosystem functions to wetlands.

Featured image: A southern purple-spotted gudgeon ready for release  

Photo credit: Nature Glenelg Trust

Subscribe now for quarterly updates on Finterest articles