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Opening up the fish super highway

18 Sep 2019

The North Central Catchment Management Authority (CMA) is making the most of the high flows in the Murray River to provide a boost to the local fish population in Gunbower Creek.

Water for the environment will flow down the Murray in mid to late September, on top of the existing irrigation flows, to ensure native fish have the water and resources they depend on to feed and breed at this time of year.

The Murray flows have opened up an opportunity to connect Gunbower Creek with the river at the perfect time of the year.

“A small amount of water from the low-lying Gunbower wetlands will flow back into the Murray when we open the Shillinglaws regulator,” North Central CMA Environmental Water Project Manager Genevieve Smith said.

“That will put some much-needed carbon and nutrients into the Murray, which will be perfect fish food.

“On top of that, we will open the Yarran regulator at the Gunbower Creek end, allowing water to flow between the two waterways. That will allow fish to migrate between both.”

At the moment, due to barriers to fish movement that currently exist along Gunbower Creek, fish have limited opportunities for movement between the Murray and Gunbower Creek.

“We are in the process of designing a fishway at the Koondrook Weir which will allow native fish to move up into Gunbower Creek from the river, but until that happens, providing connectivity through Yarran Creek is one of the only opportunities for fish to move in and out,” Ms Smith said.

“When fish move from the Murray to Gunbower Creek they help to recolonise the creek and maintain the genetic diversity of the creek fish, supporting more sustainable populations of Murray cod, silver perch and golden perch in particular.

“As the weather warms in spring, it is peak season for fish to be active, so the timing is perfect. Yarran Creek will be like a fish highway.”

Water for the environment will be delivered through Yarran Creek with the flows returning to the Murray being reused to support environmental outcomes at downstream sites.

“The flow will stay within the Yarran Creek channel and won’t go out on the floodplain,” Ms Smith said.

“A key component of our Native Fish Recovery Plan for Gunbower and the lower Loddon is around re-connecting waterways, and this is a rare opportunity that is too good to miss.”

Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder Jody Swirepik said the Southern Spring Flow will give fish, animals and plants the best chance to survive and breed in the current dry conditions.

“Having water set aside for healthy working rivers is fundamental,” she said.

“The health of rivers and wetlands across the Southern Basin is linked to the health of the Murray. Being able to use the spring flow to improve the health of Gunbower Creek is a perfect way to showcase how the system is connected, and how it has been that way for hundreds of years.”   

The Gunbower Island water for the environment project is delivered by the North Central CMA in partnership with Goulburn-Murray Water, Murray-Darling Basin Authority, the Commonwealth Environmental Water Office, the Victorian Environmental Water Holder, DELWP and Parks Victoria.

It is part of The Living Murray program, a joint initiative of the New South Wales, Victorian, South Australian, Australian Capital Territory and the Commonwealth governments, coordinated by the MDBA.