This project has been supported by funding from the NSW Recreational Freshwater Fishing Trust and NSW DPI Fisheries.

Figure 1 Roger Knight with a Murray cod to be released into the river. Photo credit NSW DPI Fisheries.

Recreational and Aboriginal cultural fishers can help Department of Primary Industry Fisheries (DPI-Fisheries) researchers and fisheries managers assess the stocking of “advanced size” native fish as a tool to help inland rivers recover after natural disasters. This innovative project will trial the targeted stocking of advanced juvenile Murray cod (Maccullochella peelii) as part of a recovery response to fish kill events in the Murray-Darling system.

Five hundred tagged Murray Cod averaging 350 mm long and 650 g were released in the Edward-Wakool system in April 2023 (Figure 1). A similar number of fish are to be released in the Baaka (Darling) River in November 2023. Both regions will also be stocked with up to 50,000 Murray Cod fingerlings (40-50 mm) during the 2023-24 season.

All fish will have external T-bar tags fitted, with around 50 of the fish stocked to the Baaka (Darling) River also fitted with surgically implanted acoustic tags. The acoustic tags will allow monitoring of individual fish’s movement and habitat use for tens to hundreds of kilometres up and down the river. The external tags will also allow

recreational and Aboriginal cultural fishers to report any catches and inform fishery managers and scientists of fish movement and growth.

The trial stocking of Murray cod fingerlings/ sub-adults will complement planned mass stockings of “standard” fingerlings (30-40mm) and will be assessed by DPI researchers as a future option to aid and/or fast track fishery recovery following natural disasters including floods, droughts and bushfires. The trial will consider risks associated with the increased occurrence and severity of these events as a result of climate change and will assess targeted stocking of advanced sized fish as part of a suite of management responses to safeguard fisheries resources and opportunities. The evaluation will focus on the initial habitat use, movements and survival of stocked larger juveniles/ sub-adults.

In addition to the collection of data from acoustic and external tags, targeted electrofishing sampling in the rivers near the stocking sites will add to the whole extensive monitoring program.

This project is a collective and collaborative effort, working in partnership with communities, private landholders, scientists and government agencies – these contributions are gratefully acknowledged.

We acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the land on which we live, work and play. We also pay our respects to Elders past, present and emerging.