Native Fish Recovery Plan
The Native Fish Recovery Plan has a clear aim; to restore native fish populations and waterway health in the Central Murray system in northern Victoria.
Centred on the Gunbower Creek and lower Loddon River, the NFRP provides an opportunity to increase native fish populations, recover threatened species and improve natural values, all integrated with vibrant and productive communities, irrigation and agriculture.
The NFRP complements the intent of the Murray Darling Basin Plan - to provide more environmental water to rivers, wetlands and floodplains; and to improve and restore ecosystem health, while maintaining productive irrigation industries.
The philosophy of the NFRP differs from the more traditional approach of returning the ecosystem to as close to natural conditions as possible which is not fully achievable within an irrigation system.
It provides a novel way to achieve ecological outcomes within a highly regulated waterway system by embedding fish restoration flows into irrigation flows - that is using every drop twice, once to assist native fish and again to meet consumptive uses.
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The Native Fish Recovery Plan uses the major waterways and wetlands within the Gunbower and lower Loddon River area to develop a strategy that is tailored to the region, with a method that is applicable to irrigation areas basin-wide.
It addresses three key factors responsible for the decline of native fish populations:
- Loss of connectivity for fish movement and migration;
- Alteration of natural flows regimes; and
- Loss of habitat.
All of these impacts can be readily addressed by proven techniques such as fishways, screens on irrigation channels (common overseas and self-cleaning), environmental flows and habitat rehabilitation, such as re-snagging and riparian revegetation.
Importantly, because this is an anabranch system, any additional flow directed through the system for the benefit of fish is returned to the Murray River and therefore available for downstream consumptive uses. Hence, these recovery actions do not depend on large water allocations and can be mostly integrated into existing irrigation water deliveries.
The growth of native fish populations will support increased recreational fishing and eco-tourism with associated benefits to the regional economy. By implementing the NFRP there is also the potential to develop a world-class trophy fishery for large Murray cod in the Cohuna region.