Saturday, April 20, 2024

Fisheries collaboration aims to net endangered fish solution

A collaborative new research project will see fisheries experts from across Australia and abroad brought together to work jointly on re-establishing wild populations of the endangered native Macquarie Perch.

Federal Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Murray Watt today officially announced the $3.7 million project at Victoria’s SEA LIFE Melbourne Aquarium, which he said will drive collaboration of governments, university researchers and recreational fishers.

The three-year project will conduct dedicated research to ‘crack the code’ on captive breeding of the species, meaning fisheries experts will be able to produce and release Macquarie Perch using hatchery broodstock, rather than capturing wild adult fish every season.

“Having the capability to reliably breed Macquarie Perch in large numbers without sourcing broodstock from the wild every season would be a major advance in the recovery of this species across its natural range in south-eastern Australia,” said Senator Watt.

“This is just one of the hundreds of research projects, worth more than $166 million, the FRDC is investing in to benefit Indigenous, commercial and recreational fishers as well as the aquaculture industry.”

The project, led by the Federal and Victorian Governments, features 12 partners across government, universities and community, including Victorian Fisheries Authority (VFA), Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (FRDC), NSW Fisheries and the North East and Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authorities.

“A reliable supply of hatchery bred Macquarie Perch will accelerate their recovery in the wild and ensure future generations can appreciate this iconic native species in places it was once abundant,” said Victorian Minister for Outdoor Recreation, Sonya Kilkenny.

The work will also be driven by research partners including Deakin University, University of the Sunshine Coast, Monash University, Arthur Rylah Institute and the Norwegian Institute of Aquaculture Research, as well as the Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority.

Macquarie Perch were once abundant in south-eastern Australia but a range of factors, including barriers to fish migration and loss of habitat, have restricted populations to just a handful of locations. Breeding currently relies on annual collection of broodfish from the wild, with experts having been unable to replicate environmental conditions for broodstock to thrive in hatcheries over several breeding seasons.

This research project will examine nutrition, hormones, the timing of breeding and other factors to understand how to consistently produce fingerlings for stocking – boosting the ongoing work to save the Macquarie Perch from extinction.

Since 2022, the VFA’s Snobs Creek hatchery has produced more than 185,000 Macquarie Perch – including 40,000 released in Victoria’s north-east earlier this year.

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