Over half of the 46 fish species native to the Murray-Darling Basin are known to be rare, threatened or of conservation concern. Combining the use of environmental water and ecological knowledge is helping to protect and rehabilitate vulnerable fish populations.
Murray hardyhead (Craterocephalus fluviatilis) are small-bodied native fish endemic to the lowland floodplains of the Murray and Murrumbidgee River systems. The species was historically common throughout South Australia, southern New South Wales and northern Victoria, having been collected as far upstream as Yarrawonga, and as far downstream as Lake Alexandrina at the mouth of the Murray. The range of Murray hardyhead has declined drastically over recent years, largely due to the impacts of drought and human processes which impact on water quality, isolation of wetlands from the river and competition or predation from introduced fish species (like Mosquito fish and Redfin perch).
The Murray hardyhead is listed as threatened under the Victorian Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988, and vulnerable under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC 2004).
Since 2004 the Murray-Darling Freshwater Research Centre (MDFRC) have worked with the following agencies to undertake Murray hardyhead population monitoring, translocation and captive breeding programs in Victoria:
- Mallee Catchment Management Authority
- North Central Catchment Management Authority
- Department of Environment and Primary Industries
In South Australia, the MDFRC and the Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources have worked together on Murray hardyhead conservation.
In 2014 the Murray-Darling Basin Authority funded a review of Murray hardyhead conservation efforts to date and compilation of recommendations for ongoing rehabilitation of this species.
Outcomes since 2004:
- Monitoring and reporting of populations of Murray hardyhead in situ at sites in the Sunraysia and Kerang regions and at various sites across South Australia
- Identification and trialling of new translocation sites for Murray hardyhead
- Maintenance of representative sub-populations of Murray hardyhead from lake populations (Cardross Basin, Lake Hawthorn, Round Lake and Lake Kelly) until either location of alternative sites for translocation, or re-watering of the endemic sites could be achieved
- Conservation of the species through drought
- Review of the biology and status of Murray hardyhead in 2014, coupled with recommendations for the future management of the species
- Publication of a children’s picture book, written and illustrated in collaboration with primary school students from the Sunraysia district, as an awareness raising project about the plight of the Murray hardyhead (available from MDFRC: firstname.lastname@example.org)
It is hoped that these efforts go some way to protecting the Murray hardyhead and boosting populations of this special native fish. For more information on the MDFRC’s involvement in Murray Hardyhead conservation, visit the MDFRC website.