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The Murray darling returns

20 May 2016

The darling of the Murray Darling Basin is making a comeback in an iconic part of Australia.   

A century of regulation of Gunbower Creek has fractured the Murray cod population, leading to a dearth of young fish.   

The creek is beside the internationally significant Gunbower Forest, and weirs at both ends means fish access to and from the Murray River is almost impossible.   

Cooperation between the North Central Catchment Management Authority (CMA) and Commonwealth and Victorian environmental water holders is turning the fish numbers around, providing a boon for the population, and for local anglers.   

“We are three years into a long-term plan of using environmental water to stabilise creek levels and provide better breeding conditions for Murray cod,” North Central CMA Project manager Anna Parker said.   

“Regulation and modernisation of the creek means water levels rise and fall dramatically, and the male Murray cod whose job it is to protect the nest of eggs don’t like that. They feel under threat and abandon their eggs, leaving the eggs exposed to predators.   

“The end result is there aren’t enough juvenile cod in the system, which is dangerous to the species’ long-term survival in the creek."

The watering also delivers low flows during winter, which is outside irrigation season.  

Historically, when the irrigation season closed, the creek levels dropped significantly leaving only residual pools in some places.  

"The fish struggled to survive in these pools,” Anna said.   

“Now, we can deliver flow to connect the  pools, providing fish with greater habitat for shelter and areas to feed.”   

The results are speaking for themselves.  

“Local anglers are telling us there are more Murray cod being caught in the creek than they can remember,” Anna said.   

“Our own monitoring has also revealed greater numbers, as well as a more diverse range of ages, which points to fish surviving longer and benefitting from consecutive and constant environmental flows.   

“Murray cod now have water security all-year round for the entire 54 kilometres of the creek. Regulation has meant Mother Nature cannot look after herself, and needs a little helping hand from time to time.   

“Fisheries Victoria has been stocking the creek for a number of years, but the survival rates have significantly increased with the year-round flows.”                     

The water is provided by the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder. North Central CMA is managing this flow event in line with the Victorian Environmental Water Holder’s (VEWH) Seasonal Watering Plan 2015-16. 

The plan is developed in collaboration with the North Central CMA and supported by local input from community representatives, Goulburn-Murray Water and the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning.

For further information please contact: 

Communications Officer, North Central CMA
PO Box 18, Huntly VIC 3551

t: 03 5448 7124