The ongoing drought and ever-diminishing flows along rivers are expected to have widespread consequences for native fish populations across NSW this summer, which is why DPI Fisheries staff have been carrying out a series of strategic relocation missions across regional waterways, targeting native fish species.
More than 2000 native fish have so far been successfully relocated from the Lower Darling, Gwydir, Border Rivers, Macquarie, Lachlan and Upper Murray, as part of ongoing operations carried out since September.
Leading the response from DPI Fisheries is native fish drought response coordinator, Cameron Lay. "Based on current forecasts, large-scale fish deaths are unfortunately inevitable," Mr Lay said.
"However, we have prepared a range of responses designed to provide native fish with the best possible chance of survival as these unprecedented drought conditions continue.
"In recent months, we have undertaken our largest ever fish rescue and relocation operation, carefully rescuing and relocating larger fish, such as the iconic Murray Cod, medium-sized fish like the Golden Perch and Silver Perch, and small-bodied threatened fish including the Southern Pygmy Perch, Purple Spotted Gudgeon and Olive Perchlet."
These fish rescue operations are part of the NSW Government's $10 million statewide drought response strategy aiming to provide a lifeline for key native fish species
The Narrandera hatchery is set to undergo a $4 million expansion as part of the strategy to allow specialist hatchery staff to breed around 2.5 million native fish species each year.
The NSW native fish drought response strategy also includes artificial aeration and oxygenation initiatives to support water quality and fish survival across river systems.
Last summer, following hot and dry conditions in the Lower Darling, DPI Fisheries undertook two fish rescues with the long-term aim of returning the fish to the river.
DPI Fisheries Narrandera hatchery manager, Matthew McLellan, said it was the first time rescues of this scale had been undertaken in western NSW.
"From 20 of the Murray Cod that were rescued from Menindee earlier this year, our staff have successfully bred more than 100,000 juvenile Cod.
The long-term aim is to restock our rivers with millions of native fish when conditions improve," Mr McLellan said.
If you have any concerns about native fish contact DPI online at email@example.com.
To report fish deaths in waterways, download the FishSmart app, phone the Fishers Watch phone line on 1800 043 536, or visit online at www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/report-it