Native fish in the lower Darling-Baaka will have a rare chance to breed this spring thanks to a managed flow starting today.
Fish kills in 2018-19 devastated populations in the lower Darling-Baaka and drought then hampered recovery efforts.
Recent rainfall and inflows upstream have paved the way for a modest managed flow that is expected to trigger reproduction and support survival of the remaining fish.
Over the next three months, our Biodiversity and Conservation Division will order a release of water from Commonwealth holdings over Weir 32, and into the lower Darling-Baaka for the environment.
The Department’s Senior Team Leader Paula D’Santos said timing and adaptive management of the flow event are critical to the survival of native fish in the river.
‘The lower Darling-Baaka was once a stronghold for Murray cod. They reproduced regularly, there was a diversity of ages within the population and they were able to repopulate the river system if problems occurred elsewhere,’ Ms D’Santos said.
‘The fish kills caused by low and no flow conditions have impacted that population and we are now seeking to support their recovery.
‘This flow will provide habitat where Murray cod can lay their eggs, access food and support the survival of young fish in their early weeks and months of life.
‘Active monitoring of native fish and their larvae will help to inform management of the flow.
‘For much of the event, the volume of water used will range from 50 to 200 megalitres per day above the minimum required by the Water Sharing Plan.
‘We have designed a flow that aims to conserve drought reserves stored in the Menindee Lakes whilst still providing positive outcomes for native fish.
‘Young golden perch from upstream are also likely to move into the lower Darling-Baaka with the release of water over Weir 32.
‘These fish may eventually find their way into the Murray River, or at least help repopulate areas of the Lower Baaka,’ Ms D’Santos said.
The Department is managing the flow event on behalf of the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder in collaboration with DPI Fisheries, National Parks and Wildlife Service and the Arthur Rylah Institute.