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Southern Pygmy Perch Given a Helping Hand

AUSTRALIA - A threatened fish species, the Southern Pygmy Perch, has been given a helping hand, with a creek rehabilitation project in the Upper Murray catchment, according to New South Wales Minister for Primary Industries Ian Macdonald.

"In January 2007, a population of Southern Pygmy Perch was discovered in Copabella Creek, east of Holbrook. When the fish were discovered, NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) staff were very concerned that the creek might dry up because of the ongoing drought.

"Before creek levels got too low, fisheries staff rescued 100 fish from a remnant pool, and the fish were kept at the Narrandera Fisheries Centre. The creek is now flowing again and the fish were returned to the creek in February," he said.

NSW DPI Senior Conservation Manager, Adam Vey, said to help protect this fish population, the Murray Catchment Management Authority (CMA), NSW DPI and Copabella Creek landholders implemented a rehabilitation project to improve the habitat of the creek with funds from the Murray CMA’s Threat Abatement Program.

"Works undertaken on the creek banks include fencing to exclude stock from the creek and the provision of off- stream watering points.

"This has ensured that landholder’s primary production activities such as grazing can continue while the aquatic habitat is managed for the long-term survival of the threatened Southern Pygmy Perch," he said.

Mr Vey said fencing had also protected water plants that were important habitat for the fish.

"This project has improved the survival chances of the Southern Pygmy Perch population in Copabella Creek thanks to the great help and support of landholders and the Murray CMA’s Threat Abatement Program," he said.

Southern Pygmy Perch (Nannoperca australis) were once widely distributed throughout the Murrumbidgee and Murray River systems as well as coastal streams in South Australia and Victoria, north-eastern Tasmania and King and Flinders Islands in Bass Strait.

A large-scale reduction in the distribution and numbers of Southern Pygmy Perch led to their listing as a threatened species in NSW, with only three known remnant populations remaining.

There are heavy penalties for harming, possessing, buying or selling southern pygmy perch, or for harming their habitat.

Ellen Hardy

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