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How a long-lost fish species was brought back to Bendigo

  • 1.  How a long-lost fish species was brought back to Bendigo

    Posted 27 days ago

    How a long-lost fish species was brought back to Bendigo

    Greta Valley Landcare GroupCC BY | 'The Conversation' Published: May 13, 2024 1.05pm AEST

    The southern pygmy perch hadn’t been seen in Bendigo Creek since the mid-19th-century goldrush, when a booming town sprang up around the central Victorian waterway. This attractive small fish, which displays bright colours when breeding, is no more than 6–8cm long. Once widespread, the species eventually became locally extinct across the Loddon River catchment, which includes the creek.

    But today, thanks to the efforts of community volunteers, scientists and local authorities, there are several thriving local populations of this small fish.

    Reintroducing species to their old habitat is complicated. For animal species, we need good information about where to source them from and how many to move. It’s essential to have good habitat ready for the newly restored population.

    We should also know how genetically diverse the population is because that can affect its long-term success.

    A successful reintroduction depends on researchers, environmental managers and local communities working together. That’s exactly what happened in Bendigo.

    Pygmy perch range has shrunk

    The southern pygmy perch (Nannoperca australis) was once found in many rivers and streams across New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. However, the combined pressures of habitat loss and degradation, invasive species such as redfin perch, carp and eastern gambusia, drought and drawing too much water for farming drove many populations to local extinction.

    In 2015, recognising the importance of collaboration across management groups and communities, six regional bodies formed the Tri-State Murray NRM Alliance. They developed the “Magnificent Six” project to reintroduce six native freshwater fish species – all small and endangered – in the Murray-Darling Basin, which includes the Loddon River. The southern pygmy perch was first in line.

    The Magnificent Six program aims to restore populations of six small fish species in the Murray-Darling Basin.

    In 2018, through the tri-state alliance, a partnership between local government, environmental managers, an aquarium business, local community and fish hobbyists was formed. The Molecular Ecology Lab at Flinders University was brought in to provide guidance and genetics expertise. The lab had experience of successful captive breeding and reintroduction of southern pygmy perch in South Australia.

    Everyone came together to plan the most effective course of action. We consulted local community members. We discussed where best to collect fish from and to move them. We planned planting efforts to restore suitable habitat.

    Continue reading on 'The Conversation'


    [City] NSW