River blackfish find new homes

A fascinating trial conducted to find out if translocated river blackfish will stay in rehabilitated sections of river – effectively making a new ‘home range’ has been conducted in the Tarwin River.

The river blackfish are renowned for not moving far from their home base meaning you will rarely find river blackfish in a rehabilitated section of river no matter how good the new home is.

There have been massive changes to our catchments and waterways since European settlement. Over the last 25 years, West Gippsland Catchment Management Authority (WGCMA) has been working with landholders and community groups to improve the health of the Tarwin River Catchment.

The number of river blackfish in the Tarwin River Catchment has been steadily declining; with the Leongatha Angling Club reporting their catches have waned over recent decades.

“We’ve been working with the community to improve habitat for river blackfish over the years,” explained Matt Bowler, WGCMA Project Delivery Team Leader.

“But because they don’t tend to migrate or move much from their home site, they haven’t recolonised large sections of the river that are now available to them.”

In this study, conducted by the Arthur Rylah Institute with the support of the Leongatha Angling Club and local residents, 27 adult river blackfish were tagged and moved from the Tarwin River west branch to rehabilitated sections of the river downstream.

According to Tanya Cowell, Waterways Project Officer, the results show that the fish survive translocation and will stay when relocated – making the rehabilitated stretch of river their new home.

“Although this is a local study confined to the Tarwin River, it has potential implications for blackfish management, re-population and river restoration throughout Victoria, Tasmania and New South Wales,” explained Tanya.

“The study results didn’t show any evidence of the river blackfish spawning and we’ve secured an additional grant to monitor them over the next three years.

“This next step will be about seeing if the translocated river blackfish are not only surviving but reproducing and thriving in their new environment.

“Habitat condition underpins the health of fish populations and we’ll continue to work with farmers and landowners to improve the health of waterways across Gippsland.”

This project is funded by the Victorian Government using Recreational Fishing Licence Fees. It is managed by WGCMA and ARI has been contracted by WGCMA to conduct the research.  The Leongatha Angling Club members have also played a valuable role in this unique project.

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