Murray Cod (2018)
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Murray Cod is the largest solely freshwater fish in Australia. It occurs throughout most of the Murray–Darling system. Stock status is depleted in the ACT and SA, and undefined in NSW, QLD and VIC.
Stock Status Overview
|Queensland||Queensland||Undefined||Fishery-independent surveys, recreational fishing surveys|
Murray Cod is the largest solely freshwater fish in Australia. It occurs throughout most of the Murray–Darling system, except for the upper reaches of some tributaries in Victoria, the Australian Capital Territory and southern New South Wales. Investigation of the genetic structure in the Murray–Darling Basin has demonstrated that there is one large genetically panmictic biological stock throughout most of its distribution [Rourke et al. 2011]. However, genetically distinct populations have been identified in the more isolated Lachlan, Macquarie and Gwydir catchments [Rourke et al. 2011]. This separation appears to be the result of restricted gene flow due to the isolated nature of these catchments [Rourke et al. 2011]. Although genetic studies suggest the existence of one biological stock, there are differences in management arrangements and available information in the various jurisdictions.
Here, assessment of stock status is presented at the jurisdictional level—Australian Capital Territory, Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia.
Anecdotal evidence provided by recreational anglers have described substantial declines in Murray Cod populations in Queensland [Steven Brooks pers. comm.]. It is generally accepted that native fish populations in the Murray–Darling Basin’s rivers have declined to an estimated 10 per cent of the levels before European settlement [Murray–Darling Basin Commission 2004]. The decline is thought to have resulted from a combination of flow regulation, habitat degradation, reduced water quality, barriers to movement, introduced species and overexploitation from illegal fishing [Murray–Darling Basin Commission 2004].
Approximately 100 000 fingerlings have been stocked each year throughout their range in Queensland since the mid-1980s. A large proportion of these fingerlings are stocked into impounded waters, where natural recruitment levels are low [Steven Brooks pers. comm.]. The Murray–Darling Basin Authority Sustainable Rivers Audit, fishery-independent monitoring and anecdotal evidence from recreational fishers suggest an increase in numbers in the Border Rivers region, which may be attributed to extensive stocking in this catchment [Butler et al. unpublished data, Steven Brooks pers. comm.]. The audit and other fishery-independent monitoring have been undertaken in several other rivers and catchments in Queensland [Murray–Darling Basin Commission 2004, Steven Brooks pers. comm.]. However, the lack of consistency in sampling methodologies and the low numbers of Murray Cod recorded during the monitoring makes accurate biomass estimates difficult.
The Queensland area of the Murray–Darling Basin has never supported a commercial fishery, although there is a recreational fishery throughout the northern Murray‒Darling catchment. The species is mostly targeted within the Dumaresq, Macintyre, Moonie, Condamine, Balonne and Warrego Rivers and their tributaries; fish are also occasionally reported from the Paroo River [Steven Brooks pers. comm., Taylor et al. 2012]. A survey of recreational participation and catch was conducted in 2014 [Webley et al. 2015], but harvest estimates for Murray Cod were unreliable. A recent study in the Border Rivers region suggests that harvest of this species remains high, with most fish being removed from the population within two years of reaching legal size [Butler et al. unpublished data]. While this suggests that fishing pressure is high, data are presently too uncertain to accurately estimate fishing mortality. Therefore, there is insufficient information available to confidently classify the status of this stock.
On the basis of the evidence provided above, Murray Cod in Queensland is classified as an undefined stock.
Murray Cod biology [Anderson et al. 1992, Butler et al. unpublished data, Gooley et al. 1995, King et al. 2009, Lake 1967, Pollard 1966, Rowland 1985, Rowland 1998a, Whitley 1955]
|Species||Longevity / Maximum Size||Maturity (50 per cent)|
|Murray Cod||At least 48 years, ~1800 mm TL , 83 kg||First maturity at ~4–5 years, ~400–600 mm TL for both sexes. Variable across geographic regions|
|Hook and Line|
|Hook and Line|
Commercial (management methods) Murray Cod captured by the Lakes and Coorong Fishery are currently protected under South Australian fishing regulations.
Indigenous (management methods) Indigenous fishers who can satisfy the requirements of the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth) in relation to their connection to the specific area or waters may take sufficient Murray Cod to satisfy their customary, non-commercial domestic needs in South Australia and Queensland. Indigenous fishers who do not satisfy these requirements are subject to the standard recreational bag limits, size limits and closures.
Victoria – Indigenous fishing In Victoria, regulations for managing recreational fishing may not apply to fishing activities by Indigenous people. Victorian traditional owners may have rights under the Commonwealth's Native Title Act 1993 to hunt, fish, gather and conduct other cultural activities for their personal, domestic or non-commercial communal needs, without the need to obtain a licence. Traditional Owners that have agreements under the Traditional Owner Settlement Act 2010 (Vic) may also be authorised to fish without the requirement to hold a recreational fishing licence. Outside of these arrangements, Indigenous Victorians can apply for permits under the Fisheries Act 1995 (Vic) that authorise customary fishing (for example, different catch and size limits or equipment).
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- Australian Capital Territory Government, unpublished data.
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