Water for the environment to give fish new home in Lower Goulburn River

The Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority (GB CMA) will deliver water for the environment down the Lower Goulburn River to attract native fish.

GB CMA environmental water and wetlands manager, Simon Casanelia, said the water delivery aims to attract Silver and Golden Perch into the Goulburn River and will run from approximately 10 March to 4 April.

“This annual water delivery is referred to as the Goulburn River Autumn Fresh,” Mr Casanelia said.

“A fresh is flow that increases the height of the river for a short period of time, so people may notice variations in the river height in March. It’s undertaken to help maintain the health of the river.”

A fresh increases bank soil moisture which helps plants to grow and moves sediments from the riverbed to maintain habitat for water bugs and native fish.

It also increases the habitat available for native fish, platypus and water bugs by inundating connected anabranches and wetlands and provides a cue to native fish to migrate into the river.

“This water delivery is being undertaken to entice Golden and Silver perch to make a new home in the Goulburn River to increase their local populations,” Mr Casanelia said.

“The Goulburn River is reliant on Golden and Silver perch migration from the broader Murray River to sustain healthy populations.

“There are large numbers of all sizes of these fish moving up the Murray River, which we hope to attract into the Goulburn River to make it their home, through higher flows into the Goulburn River.”

The fresh is planned to peak in late March at approximately 6,000ML/day (a river height of 4.3m at Shepparton) before slowly dropping back to approximately 1,000ML/day (a river height of 2.7m at Shepparton) in early April. This is well below the minor flood level (9.5m at Shepparton) and within the interim operating rules for the lower Goulburn River in place from November to April.

Visitors to the river should be aware, the water level may rise by approximately 50cm over Labour Day long weekend in March.

Monitoring of fish movement in response to the fresh will be undertaken by the Arthur Rylah Institute and funded by the Commonwealth Environmental Water Office (CEWO) and the Department of Environment, Land Water and Planning.

Tagging of Silver and Golden perch has started at Torrumbarry weir and their movement will be tracked with acoustic receivers placed at various locations in the Murray River and its tributaries. 

Environmental flows are planned by the Goulburn Broken CMA in consultation with the CEWO and the Victorian Environmental Water Holder (VEWH).

This flow is authorised by the Victorian Environmental Water Holder in line with its Seasonal Watering Plan 2021-22, which is available for download from www.vewh.vic.gov.au, with regular watering updates posted on the Goulburn Broken CMA website www.gbcma.vic.gov.au

Timing of the environmental flows take into consideration delivery orders by irrigators and other water users and feedback from the community via the Goulburn Broken CMA’s environmental water advisory groups.

Providing water for the environment is only one way of protecting and improving rivers and wetlands. Fencing and revegetation, erosion control, pest control, returning logs to rivers (re-snagging) for fish and bug habitat, and installation of fishways to allow fish to pass through dams and weirs also help.

Find out more about river health, water for the environment and monitoring activities at  www.gbcma.vic.gov.au

To check flows in the Lower Goulburn, view the hydrograph on Goulburn Broken CMA’s website: www.fchmccoys.hydronet.com (updated weekly).

Photo: A Silver Perch at Torrumbarry Weir 15.02.22 (Photo Wayne Koster, ARI)