Hunting wild pyg
Southern pygmy perch were once common in the wetlands and slow flowing creeks of the southern Murray Darling Basin.
They are now Endangered in New South Wales and South Australia and their numbers are rapidly declining in Victoria.
“Since the 1970s, introduced fish such as redfin, trout and carp, as well as habitat destruction, altered flows, disconnection of floodplain wetlands, and more recently the Millennium Drought have contributed to their decline,” North Central Catchment Management Authority Project Officer Peter Rose said.
“There are a few isolated populations left in the upper Campaspe and Avoca catchments, but they are fragmented and highly inbred.”
The North Central CMA, through its Native Fish Recovery Plan, is joining forces with the City of Greater Bendigo, Native Fish Australia and the Australian New Guinea Fish Association to genetically rescue the southern pygmy perch and help it thrive again.
“We have collected fish from the remaining populations and set up a captive breeding program,” Mr Rose said.
“We have found a specialist southern pygmy perch breeder who is currently breeding the fish and they will be ready for re-stocking into rehabilitated habitats by this time next year.
“The ultimate aim of the project is to return the fish to creeks and wetlands around Bendigo, and the Gunbower Forest wetlands.”
Southern pygmy perch was last recorded in Gunbower forest in 1997, and it’s thought that the species has been locally extinct from the Bendigo Creek since the 1860s gold rush
City of Greater Bendigo Natural Reserves Team Leader Mark Toohey said city planned to release the southern pygmy perch into the new ponds at the top of the Bendigo Creek catchment near Number 7 Reservoir.
“It’s exciting because we are nearly there,” he said.
“It’s been a terrific collaboration between all of the groups involved, which will have good outcomes for our local waterway environments.
“As far as I know we are the first local government in Victoria to do something like this and I hope other councils follow our lead.
“There are other fish such as the northern blackfish, galaxids and many others that could also be reintroduced, which would be really great for the ongoing health of our local waterways.
“There is interest in using the new frog ponds that have recently been constructed off Knight Street, White Hills, undertaken as part of the Wanyarram Dhelk – healthy water, healthy country program, as nurseries for native fish breeding habitats.”