In the early 1900s, the rivers in northern Victoria held so many native fish that the Murray cod fishing company removed tonnes of Murray cod per week for markets in Bendigo and Melbourne. Amateur anglers were also guaranteed a good catch and could invariably choose in advance the type of fish they wanted for their plate on any given evening.
European settlement has brought with it many changes that have interfered with natives fishes ability to thrive and survive in our river systems. The Native Fish Recovery Plan is an integrated plan to rehabilitate native fish populations in the Gunbower – Loddon systems in Northern Victoria to 50% of pre-European abundance by 2035.
The plan is based on reinstating the three things critical to fish survival and health: flow, habitat (instream woody habitat and vegetation) and connectivity (fish passage). The plan also identifies key threats that need to be overcome such as pest fish control and screening irrigation offtakes (channels and pumps). The plan is being delivered collaboratively with stakeholders, recreational fishers, irrigators, traditional owners and community.
The flow cornerstone to the plan has been implemented over the last few years, in line with flow study recommendations to achieve outcomes to support native fish. Examples include Murray cod spawning in Gunbower Creek three years in succession and a recent attractant flow to move fish from the Murray River through a series of fishways to the high value habitat of Kow Swamp.
The North Central CMA, Victorian Environmental Water Holder and Goulburn Murray Water collaborate closely around the delivery of environmental water to ensure no impact to the needs of irrigators while optimising environmental outcomes. This partnership is the foundation of the success of environmental flows in the project area.