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The Native Fish Recovery Strategy

Working together for the future of native fish

The health of native fish in the Murray−Darling Basin is a vital legacy that we leave for future generations. The Basin has over 60 fish species including freshwater, estuarine and those that move between the river and the sea – most of these species are unique to Australia and are only found in the Basin.

The importance of native fish in the Basin

There are 2.6 million people living in Basin communities, spread across regional areas including small and remote communities. Communities care about native fish and recognise the important environmental, cultural, social and economic roles that native fish play. For First Nations people, native fish provide a vital cultural connection. Wellbeing is tied to the health of Country and therefore the recovery of our native fish is of great significance to their mental and spiritual wellbeing.

Native fish also play an important economic role. Tourism and recreation is worth around $8 billion a year to Basin communities, with recreational fishing contributing an estimated $403 million to Australia’s Gross Domestic Product and supporting nearly 11,000 jobs.

Over the past few years native fish in the Basin have faced tough conditions including widespread drought, reduced water availability and more recently, the effects of intense bushfires.

Water managers know that native fish are one part of a larger living, connected system and work needs to be done to protect these species. That’s why the $5 million in joint government funding has been invested to develop a Native Fish Recovery Strategy.

The Native Fish Recovery Strategy

Basin governments, community, First Nations, recreational fishers and scientists have developed a Native Fish Recovery Strategy. The Strategy provides a high-level framework to guide future investment. It emphasises community engagement and ownership, focusing on recovering rivers of Basin-scale significance in a way that complements existing initiatives.

The Native Fish Recovery Strategy recognises that native fish move, breed and complete their life cycles over Basin-scales. This means that having healthy native fish populations in any given river is largely dependent on the health of native fish populations in connected catchments. The Strategy calls for investment in actions that complement state activities and maximise outcomes at local, regional and Basin-scales through coordinated efforts.

The Strategy has a 30-year horizon to 2050, with 10-year implementation stages that aim to achieve four broad outcomes:

  • Outcome One: Recovery and persistence of native fish
  • Outcome Two: Threats to native fish are identified and mitigated
  • Outcome Three: Communities are actively involved in native fish recovery
  • Outcome Four: Recovery actions are informed by best available knowledge.

Developing partnerships is a core element of the Strategy, so that First Nations people, recreational fishers, conservation groups, industry and the broader community can lead on-ground actions to recover native fish populations and invest in local economies. This will increase our joint knowledge-base, help to find novel solutions, improve capacity and promote community participation.

Native Fish Recovery Strategy at a glance

Investing in the future for native fish

The Native Fish Recovery Strategy needs significant, long term investment to achieve its vision of recovering native fish for future generations. Joint government funding of $5 million has been invested to develop the strategy. Looking forward, additional investment will be needed to achieve the strategy outcomes and engage the community in fish recovery actions.

As part of implementation of the Strategy it will be important to build partnerships with the private sector, industry and communities to help deliver actions and recover native fish for future generations.

Case Study - Recovering the Lower Darling

Throughout 2018–2019, millions of native fish perished at Menindee and throughout the wider Lower Darling region. In response NSW DPI-Fisheries, in collaboration with the MDBA, launched a project ‘Recovering the Lower Darling’, designed to protect and recover remnant native fish in the short-term (2019–2020). The Lower Darling region is significant for breeding and recruitment by iconic species such as Murray Cod and Golden Perch, threatened species including Silver Perch and Freshwater Catfish, and a suite of small native fish species.

This project has focussed on improved fish and water quality monitoring to better understand the impacts of the mass fish deaths and inform water management decision making to reduce the risk of further fish death events. The project also developed a citizen science program to harness local knowledge and involve communities in native fish recovery. Additionally, engagement with First Nations people and the community helped guide activities such as artificially aerated refuge areas and the relocation of fish stranded from drying pool

Over the longer term this project will inform flow management to support fish breeding and recruitment, whilst implementing complementary actions including restocking efforts, improving fish passage and rehabilitation of riparian and aquatic habitats. By working with other state and federal agencies, as well as local communities, this project will support the movement, breeding and recruitment of native fish. A great example of the government and community working together for the future of native fish.

How you can get involved

Everybody has a role to play in recovering native fish. To register your interest in receiving updates, or to find further information on the Native Fish Recovery Strategy, please visit  https://getinvolved.mdba.gov.au or download the brochure to share with your communities.

Updated: 22 Sep 2020  •