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Closure Gives Rare Fish Fighting Chance

AUSTRALIA - The male eastern freshwater cod can put his life on the line as he guards eggs and young during the August to October breeding season.

Survival of an endangered fish has been boosted by the decision to close the Mann and Nymboida Rivers to all fishing during the eastern freshwater cod’s (EFC) breeding season.

For the first time this August a three-month fishing ban will come into force to protect EFC when they are most vulnerable and the penalty for fishing in the closure zone can be a fine up to A$22,000.

NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) senior conservation manager, John Pursey, said the fishing ban from August until October was based on scientific research and public consultation.

"We’ve found that EFC are vulnerable during their breeding season and any fishing near brooding EFC can have a devastating effect on this endangered fish population," Mr Pursey said.

"Intensive research, including underwater surveillance, has revealed that when EFC breed, the females spawn and leave the males to care for their eggs," Mr Pursey said.

"Male EFC aggressively guard the eggs and continue to protect young cod until they are old enough to fend for themselves. This territorial behaviour means the male is susceptible to anglers which can leave young cod unprotected from other predatory fish."

Seasonal closure of the Mann and Nymboida is supported by the fishing community.

Project Big Fish is a community organisation which helps protect EFC and its president, Max Graham, said the fishing closure was a positive move.

"It’s great to see the government and public are continuing to work together on the side of the EFC," Mr Graham said.

A relative of the Murray cod, EFC was first identified as a distinct species in the 1980s and current fishing ban is just one of a set of strategies put in place to ensure its survival.

EFC is listed as an endangered species and it is illegal to catch, keep or harm EFC without a specific permit or approval. People who breach these laws are liable to receive fines of up to $220,000 and two years in prison.

The Clarence and Richmond Rivers once teemed with this rare fish which is now found naturally in just two isolated tributaries of the Clarence.