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
|Victoria||Victoria||Undefined||Historical fishery catch, 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.
In Victoria, Murray Cod numbers are considered to be much lower than pre-European levels [Cadwallader and Gooley 1984]. During the 19th century Murray Cod were considered abundant in the Loddon, Campaspe and Goulburn Rivers [Wilson 1857]. However, by the middle of the 20th century, populations of Murray Cod had declined in these rivers [Cadwallader 1977]. In Victoria, commercial catches were highest between 1954–55 and 1960–61, at approximately 10–15 t per year but reduced to approximately 1.5 t per year on average over the next 10 years and were negligible thereafter [Ingram and De Silva 2004]. Management actions such as the prohibition of commercial netting post 1999, introduction of strict recreational bag and size limits, restrictions on fishing methods such as set lines and considerable hatchery stocking have likely resulted in the recovery observed in some populations by the 1990s. However, no consistent, long-term estimates of harvest by anglers or population abundances have been recorded for Victoria.
Hatchery-reared Murray Cod have been stocked in Victoria since 1979 and anecdotal information suggests that recreational catch has significantly increased in waters where stocking has occurred. For example, in the Nagambie Lakes anglers commonly catch Murray Cod, suggesting the fish stocking program is making a significant contribution since its commencement in 2009. This contribution is likely to increase as more fish recruit into the fishery [Hunt and Giri 2015]. In 2016–17, approximately 1 147 000 Murray Cod were stocked into 38 waterways across Victoria and the number is expected to increase in coming years as part of a government initiative (Target One Million) to grow recreational fishing in the State [Victorian Fisheries Authority 2017]. Surveys in 2014 of some stocked waters indicated that the contribution of Murray Cod from stocking was highly variable (11–100 per cent) [Ingram and De Silva 2004]. Other surveys, such as the Murray‒Darling Basin Authority Sustainable Rivers Audit [Davies et al. 2008], indicate that fish biomass appears to have increased in some catchments (Ovens, Goulburn and Loddon Rivers) and declined in others (Broken and Kiewa Rivers) [Davies et al. 2012].
The last State-wide estimate of recreational catch was measured as part of the National Recreational and Indigenous Fishing Survey in 2001–01 [Henry and Lyle 2003]. This survey estimated that 11 943 Murray Cod were harvested by Victorian recreational fishers, equating to around 27.4 t of biomass. Between 2006 and 2008, recreational fishing creel surveys have been conducted on selected river reaches in Victoria, including the Goulburn, Ovens, Loddon and Murray rivers [Fulton 2011]. Total Murray Cod catch within these river reaches was estimated at more than 98 000 fish, of which just over 6 500 were harvested. However, there is insufficient data available to determine the current biomass or fishing mortality on Murray Cod. In the absence of a State-wide recreational fishing survey and/or fishery-independent data, there is insufficient information available to confidently classify the status of this stock.
On the basis of the evidence provided above, Murray Cod in Victoria 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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