The study being undertaken by the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI) and PIRSA Fisheries and Aquaculture will engage recreational fishers in the collection of data to help assess if there has been a recovery of the population.
Minister for Fisheries, Gail Gago, said the study was a vital step in providing a reliable determination of the stock status of Catfish.
“River Murray Freshwater Catfish have been protected under fisheries legislation since 1997, after scientific data indicated that the species had experienced a significant decline in distribution and abundance in the South Australian section of the River Murray,” Ms Gago said.
“In recent years, fishers have provided anecdotal information suggesting increased incidental catches of Catfish, prompting calls for the ban to be lifted.
“However, robust scientific evidence to support the population recovery is required before steps can be taken towards lifting its protected status.
“This new study is an important step in determining the preliminary stock status of Catfish.
“It will promote a co-management approach to the issue, involving recreational fishers in the collection of fishing data and in providing input into future management arrangements for the species.”
As part of the study, fishers are being asked to report any incidental catches of River Murray Freshwater Catfish to PIRSA via the 24-hour Fishwatch number 1800 065 522 or online at www.pir.sa.gov.au/catfishreport
Recreational fishers will also be engaged in participating in two fishing events to be held later in the year to assist in the collection of recreational fishing data.
Researchers will analyse samples of these catches to examine age structure and further understand the stock status of Catfish.
The Catfish case study is part of a broader co-management project for recreational fishing in South Australia being funded by the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation.
Fishers are reminded that River Murray Freshwater Catfish remain a protected species under fisheries legislation and any Catfish incidentally caught must be immediately and carefully returned to the water.