Darling River ecology ‘extinct’ and Murray cod ‘in real trouble’, warns expert Dr Stuart Rowland


The Darling River’s marine ecology is so abject it has actually ended up being extinct and renowned fish types consisting of the Murray cod deal with an unsure future, according to among Australia’s most highly regarded fish researchers.

Dr Stuart Rowland worked for the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries for 33 years up until 2011. He is credited with explaining the biology of the Murray cod and established hatchery strategies for a variety of native fish types.

He has actually composed a book called The Codfather about his life’s work and the difficulties dealing with the Murray cod.

He stated extended dry spell and over-extraction of water for watering caused an eco-friendly catastrophe in the lower Darling around Menindee in between 2018 and 2020, which eliminated big varieties of fish.

“The system is so changed and it’s so degraded now that the original sort of ecosystem that we knew at the turn of the century, the turn of the 1900s and into the 2000s is just no longer and in my opinion, it’s a system that has just gone extinct.”

A haul of Murray cod envisioned on the Mayflower in 1911.(Supplied: Stuart Rowland)

Murray cod in risk

Dr Rowland belonged to a NSW Fisheries Scientific Committee that stated the lower Darling a threatened environmental system in 2003 however its suggestions, consisting of restricting water drawn out for watering even more up the system, were not followed.

Instead, he stated, “there was a tenfold increase in water extraction”.

Man holding a Murray cod on a hook
Dr Rowland states native fish are the victims of dry spell and river mismanagement.(Supplied: Stuart Rowland)

“Water extraction is not a problem if the flows are high and the river is in flood, but for low, low rivers, it’s really serious,” he stated.

The influence on the river acquired nationwide attention with mass fish eliminates around the Menindee Lakes two years ago.

“The native fish is where we we see the results of this mismanagement, because they die,” Dr Rowland stated.

Dr Rowland stated the Darling River snail and the trout cod had actually currently gone extinct and the Murray-Darling river system was “no longer the stronghold of Murray cod”.

“And so this iconic species is just really in trouble in that river,” he stated.

Dead fish float on the surface of a murky green river.
The mass fish kill in the Darling River at Menindee in January, 2019, stunned the country.(Facebook: Debbie Newitt)

Battle to restock

The NSW Government in 2019 dedicated $10 million as part of its native fish dry spell action, consisting of the biggest effort to date to rescue and transfer more than 5,000 native fish from drying waterways to hatcheries or more protected environments throughout the state.

More than 60,000 Murray cod fingerlings were launched in the lower Darling in between Menindee and Wentworth in December. They were reproduced from stock saved from the river in 2019.

A Department representative stated native fish had actually experienced the worst dry spell on record over 3 years and had actually only simply started to recuperate.

Hand holding a Murray cod
Rescued fish are being utilized for reproducing as part of the NSW Government’s restocking program.(ABC Landline: Sean Murphy)

“NSW DPI Fisheries is supporting native fish recovery by ensuring that native fish have the opportunity to move, breed and complete their life cycles,” the representative stated.

Dr Rowland stated restocking was not a remedy and although Murray cod may endure in the system, numbers would never ever go back to what they were simply 50 years back. Crucial reproducing chances were lost in the fish eliminate catastrophe 2 years back.

Even if the river flooded once again he questioned its marine community might recuperate.

“You might get more Murray cod and some golden perch and bony bream and other species,” Dr Rowland stated.

“They might hang in there and when the big freshes and the floods come, the system will reignite.

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