Conserving native fish during the millennium drought

The Lower Lakes and Eastern Mount Lofty Ranges (EMLR) regions harbour a diverse and unique native fish community. Yet, as the recent millennium drought intensified (over 2007 to 2010), significantly diminished freshwater inflows and critical water shortages placed these regions on the verge of ecological collapse. Over this period, broad-scale loss and drying of aquatic habitats and a number of  freshwater specialists (such as Yarra pygmy perch and river blackfish) were at the risk of localised extirpation.

In response, wide-ranging conservation actions (including many by Aquasave) were undertaken initially in a period of urgent action, followed by a more coordinated approach. These actions undoubtedly helped to conserve freshwater fish populations and ensured a supply of individuals for reintroduction upon the return of favourable conditions. Over 2011-2013, over 15,000 fish from four species were reintroduced into 10 suitable locations and encouragingly, post-reintroduction survival and wild recruitment is evident (although in low numbers). A recently published paper in a special issue of Marine and Freshwater Research focusing on ‘Recovering threatened freshwater fish in Australia’ summarises the conservation actions and more details of the fish reintroductions can be found in the attached report.