Recent fish surveys by scientists from the Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research (ARI) suggest Macquarie perch numbers are increasing in the Hughes Creek.
Arthur Rylah Institute Scientist Joanne Kearns said the fish surveys were conducted during March 2015 as part of the Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority’s (CMA) Hughes Creek Project.
“Surveys were conducted at 16 sites in the Hughes Creek between Tarcombe and Avenel to obtain current information on the population status of Macquarie perch and confirm the species distribution range,” Ms. Kearns said.
“A total of 1,125 fish were captured, comprising seven native and five introduced species, with native fish accounting for 73% of the total catch.
“River blackfish was the most abundant species captured, with 488 individuals recorded at 12 of the 16 sites surveyed, and Macquarie perch was the second most abundant species collected with 145 fish recorded at 8 sites.
“The abundance of Macquarie perch and river blackfish has considerably increased since surveys were last conducted in autumn 2013, and are the highest since surveys commenced in 2006.” She said.
Ms Kearns believes the increase in River blackfish and Macquarie perch numbers is largely driven by the successful recruitment (breeding and survival) of both species during the past two years.
“The assessment of seven new sites during the survey has also increased our knowledge on the current distribution of Macquarie perch in Hughes Creek by 6 kilometres upstream and 2.5 kilometres downstream – a total distribution of approximately 24 kilometres.”
Ms Kearns said the presence of Southern pygmy perch within the Hughes Creek was also encouraging given the widespread decline of this small-bodied native species across much of its former range over the past few years.
Carp remain the most dominant exotic species (with 233 individuals captured) and were collected from 12 of the 16 sites surveyed. The abundance of carp has also considerably increased since 2013 and continues to pose a threat to native fish by competing for habitat and food aswell as decreasing water quality within the creek. Anglers are reminded that carp are a noxious species and must not be returned to the water alive.
Community groups and landholders in the Hughes Creek Catchment have helped improve the condition of the Creek and the resilience of native fish populations in the Creek by undertaking significant riparian protection and enhancement works over a number of years.
The Goulburn Broken CMA has provided incentives to landholders through State and Australian Government funded programs to erect around 6.4 kilometres of fencing and revegetate more than 14.2 hectares of riparian land with 3,455 indigenous plants. Weed control has also been a major focus in the area, with more than 110 hectares of weeds controlled in riparian areas.
The Macquarie perch was once abundant and widespread across Victoria and New South Wales but has declined dramatically since the 1970’s, with remaining populations relatively small and isolated. The species is currently listed nationally as Endangered (Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999) and listed as a threatened species under the Victorian Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988.
Anglers are reminded that taking Macquarie perch from waterways within the Goulburn Broken Catchment is prohibited, and it is important to remember to return the fish to the waterway as soon as possible if accidentally caught.
The Hughes Creek Project is run as part of the Goulburn Broken CMA’s On-ground Works Program with funding from the State Government. The Goulburn Broken CMA has recently completed works to enhance instream habitat for native fish along 2 kilometres of stream. Establishment of instream vegetation is also fundamentally important to maintaining habitat quality. Funding is available to landholders for riparian protection projects including stock control fencing, off stream watering, revegetation and weed control.
For more information on the Hughes Creek Project contact Christine Glassford at the Yea office of the Goulburn Broken CMA on 5797 4400.