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Electro-fishing partners unite again for mighty Murray Cod

by Richard Bryce 28 May 2019 05:29 UTC
Murray cod caught at Rocklands Reservoir in early 2016 © Chris Spence

Goulburn-Murray Water (GMW) is again partnering with the Victorian Fisheries Authority (VFA) to relocate hundreds of Murray Cod and other high-value native fish caught up in the East Goulburn Main Irrigation Channel.

At the same time, the organisations expect to bring a smile to the faces of local anglers by re-stocking family friendly fishing spots at Lake Benalla, Broken Creek at Nathalia and Victoria Park Lake in Shepparton.

Taking advantage of the end of the gravity irrigation season, GMW is allowing the VFA and a contracted electro-fishing boat to enter the irrigation channel and undertake a catch-and-release program.

"A similar exercise was trialed in 2017 and proved very successful with more than 550 valuable native fish - mostly decent-size Murray Cod - relocated into a more natural habitat," VFA Chief Executive Officer Travis Dowling said.

Murray Cod and other valuable natives like Golden Perch and Blackfish have shown they can adapt to life in the East Goulburn Main Irrigation Channel and its connecting spur channels. However they can also be at risk when GMW conducts regular lowering of channels for de-silting and weed spray programs.

The fish likely originally came from Nagambie Lakes and unwittingly found their way into the irrigation network via Goulburn Weir.

Electro-fishing, often called the friendly way to fish, involves a boat equipped with electrodes which are lowered into the water to attract and stun fish. They can then be netted, placed in a holding tank and transported for release into lakes and rivers.

GMW Managing Director Charmaine Quick welcomed the joint effort with the VFA as a "win-win" for local communities and the environment not to mention the wayward fish.

"The electrofishing boat is being funded by the VFA while GMW is providing some manpower, transport and site safety management, so it's a true partnership of benefit to our local communities," she said.

"Importantly, the timing and locations of the electro-fishing exercise also means there is no impact on our irrigation customers."

Electrofishing is expected to take place over two weeks from late May with another two weeks possible later in the winter.

The VFA is working with local fishing clubs and primary schools in Benalla, Nathalia and Shepparton to take part in the fish releases expected to result from the partnership.

Murray Cod fast facts:

  • Murray Cod are the most long-lived freshwater native fish in Australia, reaching ages of 50 years or more
  • They are Australia's largest freshwater fish, regularly growing to more than 1m
  • A top predator in their habitat, a Murray Cod will eat almost anything that crosses its path other fish, yabbies, shrimp, waterfowl, small mammals and turtles

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