Like many of our major rivers and lakes, the Macquarie River in NSW is drying out and our native fish are in desperate need of our help to survive.

Hundreds of Murray Cod and Yellowbelly destined to perish in worsening drought conditions have been rescued on the Macquarie River in a joint operation between NSW DPI Fisheries, local landholders, and volunteers of Inland Waterways OzFish Chapter.

Following weeks of preparation assembling specialist equipment under the guidance of expert NSW DPI Fisheries staff, 15 volunteers from Dubbo’s Inland Waterways Ozfish headed out to rescue Murray Cod up to 106cm in length and around 25 years of age, along with scores of Yellowbelly residing in rapidly shrinking pools on the lower regulated Macquarie River.

25 Murray Cod from 70cm up to 106cm were rescued and selected as brood stock, along with 60 Golden Perch.

In total 226 native fish were rescued and relocated. Inland Waterways OzFish volunteers racked up a staggering combined 12, 462 kilometres in making the rescue happen, often shuttling fish between 50 and 100 kilometres at a time.

1,090 volunteer hours were also spent on the rescue, with the committee saying it was one of the most rewarding projects they have ever undertaken.

With plenty of help from numerous landholders, and assisted by specialist DPI staff from Fisheries Compliance, Recreational Fisheries Management, Aquatic Habitat and Fisheries Research, the local Dubbo volunteers used a variety of methods including electro-fishing, netting and line fishing to successfully capture and relocate a substantial number of native fish. The teams also relocated hundreds of freshwater mussels.

Help Save Our Native Fish And Donate Now To The Macquarie River Fish Rescue

Your generous support today will help OzFish restore the fish habitats of the Macquarie River when the river flows return.

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The Rescue Effort Is Vital to Save Our Native Fish

Fisheries staff from the NSW Department of Primary Industries provided technical support to rescue as many native fish such as possible such as target recreational species Murray Cod and Golden Perch and threatened species such as Silver Perch, Eel-tailed Catfish, Southern Purple Spotted Gudgeons and Olive Perchlet. The fish were rescued from about 20 pools of water that are close to drying out

The first fish rescued were soon onboard a specialist truck, and headed for the NSW DPI Fisheries Centre in Narrandera where they will be used as brood-stock for future breeding and restocking programs.

The bulk of the Murray Cod and Golden Perch rescued from isolated and drying pools in the Lower Macquarie were relocated by Inland Waterways OzFish teams to sections of the river offering long-term protection, meaning these fish will be able to repopulate the drought-stricken lower Macquarie once the drought finally breaks.

Stay tuned for more info and videos showing this amazing collaborative native fish rescue effort staged by Inland Waterways OZFish and NSW DPI Fisheries.

NSW Native Fish Drought Response: Fish Rescues and Relocations Fact Sheet

The NSW Department of Primary Industries has ongoing concerns for further fish deaths as dry and very low flow conditions persist across most of the NSW Murray-Darling Basin (MDB). As drought conditions continue, it is likely that a range of responses - including fish rescues and relocations - will need to be considered in order to protect native fish stocks. Please read more on the factsheet for information on how you can help or to report fish in distress.

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Simple Things You Can Do

The NSW Department of Primary Industries encourages local landowners to be on the lookout for any changes to water quality such as changes to the colour or odour and report them via the Fishers Watch Phoneline. Contact the hotline if you observe fish starting to gasp at water surfaces or are displaying unusual behaviour and take photos and location details to submit to DPI Fisheries. Find out more by following the link to their webpage with more information.

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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

  • 1. Why are fish rescues of this type required?

    Our native fish populations are at 10% of their pre European levels and some species are threatened with extinction. While many good works have been carried out to support native fish including environmental flows and a lot of resnagging by our chapter in this river the drying out of much of the river will almost certainly damage the recovery that is underway. Saving the fish that remain in the river for later restocking will contribute to restoring the fish populations that were coming back and ensuring that some of the genetic diversity specific to the Macquarie River is used in this process.

  • 2. What is eletrofishing?

    Electrofishing is a commonly used method of catching fish by introducing an electrical current into the water from a boat and backpack. The fish are stunned and float to the surface. They are scooped up and placed in oxygenated tanks and recover within a couple of minutes

  • 3. What fish species are being rescued?

    While popular angling species such as Murray Cod and Golden Perch will be rescued it will be very important to save any threatened fish such as Trout Cod (recently restocked into the Macquarie River) as well as Silver Perch and Eel-tailed Catfish (numbers of both are drastically low in the river). Olive Perchlet and Purple Spotted Gudgeons tow small-bodied species which are also endangered will also be important to find.

     

  • 4. How can I help or get involved?

    This is a rescue effort supported by the NSW Government.

    What OzFish also want to do is help the recovery effort by restoring the lost and degraded habitat of the river through resnagging, riparian planting and pump screening. This will ensure the habitat is prime for the fish to survive once they are placed back into the river.

    You can also help by donating to OzFish online or at any BCF Boating, Camping Fishing store.

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If you’d like to hear more about the project contact OzFish Chapter President Matt Hansen on 0427 454 357 or email info@ozfish.org.au. The ‘Macquarie River Fish Rescue’ would not be possible without the support of the NSW Government Department of Primary Industries and BCF – Boating Camping Fishing.