The Murray Hardyhead is a small fish that has been considered extinct in NSW for more than a decade. It currently survives in a few places in Victoria and South Australia.

Recently, a small population of these fish from South Australia’s Riverland has been relocated to the Little Frenchman’s Creek wetland on Wingillie Station in far western NSW. This is the first time an attempt has been made to re-establish Murray Hardyhead and follows years of hard work by local landholders, community groups and agencies to create suitable conditions. The relocation site contains ideal habitat for Murray Hardyhead because it is already saline, which they prefer, contains plenty of submerged structure in which they hide and breed, and natural food sources.

Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder Jody Swirepik, Murray Darling Wetlands Working Group Ian Davidson & NSW DPI Fisheries Manager Iain Ellis at the Wingillie Station fish release. Photo: Carmel Zaccone, Sunraysia Daily

The Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder Ms Jody Swirepik said the provision of environmental water has been a key part of the project’s success.

“This is a great example of how water for the environment is targeted and used carefully to improve the health of our rivers,” Ms Swirepik said.

The Australia Government’s Threatened Species Commissioner Dr Sally Box congratulated the project managers for their hard work to find and prepare the new site and undertake the relocation.

“The reintroduction of Murray Hardyhead to New South Wales is a wonderful example of threatened species collaboration across states, agencies and community organisations such as the Murray Darling Wetlands Working Group,” Dr Box said.

About Wingillie Station

Wingillie Station is owned by the Hazel L Henry Farmland Nature Refuges Trust, which has been working with the Murray Darling Wetlands Working Group and Commonwealth Environment Water Office for several years to improve the condition of the floodplain and wetland habitats across the station. The generous support and assistance from the Trust has been critical in the success of the project.

Researcher monitoring a lagoon in Wingillie Station. Photo: Murray-Darling Freshwater Research Centre

SA Department for Environment and Water Wetlands Project Officer Sam Hardy said he hoped the translocation would create a thriving new population which could be used to later re-introduce the fish to additional sites throughout the southern Murray Darling Basin.

“We are thrilled to be involved in this collaborative project and gladly agreed to assist with the supply of fish from our secure populations in the Riverland. This translocation will give Australia more insurance against the Murray Hardyhead becoming extinct,” he said.

Iain Ellis and Nick Whiterod release fish into the refuge pond. Photo: NSW DPI.
Floodplain specialist fish forum:
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