Timely fish rescue by OzFish volunteers

OzFish Unlimited volunteers, farmers and community members have worked together over the summer in an emergency fish rescue operation in one of our nation’s most significant river systems – the Lower Darling.

The large-scale collaborative effort made possible by the NSW Department of Primary Industries, saw the volunteers rescue and relocate 320 native fish to more permanent waterholes in the River.

OzFish Unlimited founder and CEO Craig Copeland described some of the images as both heartbreaking and heartwarming and something that all Australians should see.

He said that the much-needed flows that are currently returning now to the Lower Darling will provide native fish an opportunity to survive and a future to breed – which he believes will contribute to their recovery.

“These efforts will benefit generations of Australian fishers,” Mr Copeland said.

“Watching a group of volunteer swimming in mud and sliding down steep banks in heatwave conditions to rescue precious native fish shows what can be achieved when communities come together -It gives me goosebumps”.

“We also applaud the agencies including NSW DPI, Wentworth Shire Council, BCF – Boating, Camping, Fishing and especially those landholders and farmers who shared our concern and provided access to remote stations along the Lower Darling from Pooncarie to Burtundy Station,” stated Mr Copeland.

The relocation comes after the NSW Government announced a $10million dollar rescue package last year to address the river crisis in parts of the Murray Darling Basin where an unprecedented number of fish kills and images of dead or dying golden perch and large Murray cod in isolated pools shocked the nation.

OzFish Unlimited’s Project Manager for the Murray Darling Basin, Braeden Lampard said he was proud to lead one of the groups that included friends and family members along with children as young as 10.

“The biggest fish moved by OzFish volunteers was a 1.26-metre-long Murray cod that we estimated to be more than 25 years old,” Mr Lampard said.“It was quite an emotional experience to release a fish like this, but to also know that we were giving it the best possible chance to survive and hopefully breed.

He said that many of the pools his OzFish team netted to capture the fish had eventually dried out completely.

“When you care about fish as much as we do, it was tough to see them in such dire condition and poor habitat and that’s why we are so grateful to our volunteers who put in more than 1,300 hours, traveled thousands of kilometers and donated equipment that allowed our team to safely catch and transport the fish in order to prevent more deaths,” Mr Lampard said.

The emergency fish relocation in the Lower Darling River was one of several rescues undertaken by NSW Fisheries and recreational anglers, with a total of 1,500 fish rescued and relocated.

Relocating fish is a last resort management option and must be planned and conducted under approval by relevant agencies. It is illegal to relocate any fish without approval.