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
|South Australia||South Australia||Depleted||Historical fishery catch, fishery-independent 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 South Australia, previous stock assessments in the Murray River and Lower Lakes noted a significant decline in annual commercial landings from 140 t in the late-1950s, to less than 10 t in the 1970s–80s [Ye et al. 2000, Ye and Zampatti 2007]. Following a moratorium on commercial and recreational fishing from January 1990–December 1993, combined with high flows in the early-1990s, annual catch increased gradually to 28.5 t in 2001–02. The Murray Cod commercial fishery ceased in the South Australian Murray River in July 2003 following restructuring of inland native fisheries. Although Murray Cod is still a ‘permitted species’ to be taken in the commercial Lakes and Coorong Fishery, there is currently a temporary closure (implemented since 2010 under the Fisheries Management Act 2007 [South Australia]) that prohibits commercial harvest. Unlike other states/jurisdictions, Murray Cod had not historically been stocked in the South Australian reaches of the Murray River [Gillanders and Ye 2011]. Since 2016, however, the Department of Primary Industries and Regions, South Australia, and RecFish South Australia, have released about 300 000 fingerlings into different river reaches in the South Australian lower Murray.
Murray Cod is a popular recreational fish species in South Australian inland waters. The 2007–08 South Australian Recreational Fishing Survey estimated that 507 Murray Cod (around 2.1 t) were harvested from the lower Murray River [Jones 2009]. No Murray Cod were reported as caught in the Lower Lakes region. There was little change in the total number of fish caught since the 2000–01 survey [Henry and Lyle 2003], but release rates increased from 48 per cent in 2000–01 to 73 per cent in 2007–08 [Jones 2009], potentially reducing recreational fishing mortality. The 2007–08 figures should only be considered as indicative because the precision levels of all estimates were low as a result of low numbers of participants reporting Murray Cod catch, as well as low numbers of Murray Cod harvested. There was a moratorium on recreational fishing for Murray Cod in South Australia in 2009 and 2010. Since 2011, a catch-and-release fishery has been permitted for this species in the South Australian Murray River during the open season, except for a closure area in Chowilla. The most recent South Australian Recreational Fishing Survey in 2013–14 [Giri and Hall 2015] did not report any catch of this species in the lower Murray River.
In the absence of a commercial fishery, or dedicated fishery-independent monitoring programs, the primary measures for biomass and fishing mortality are total catch and catch per unit effort (CPUE) from three long-term (8–11 year) fish assemblage monitoring projects in the lower Murray River from 2002–13 [Zampatti et al. 2014]. During this period, CPUE data from electrofishing and drum netting indicated that relative abundance was low. Length-frequency distributions indicated that fish collected in main channel habitats of the lower Murray River were predominantly large (more than 800 mm total length), and represented a broad range of age classes (8–46 years). Murray Cod recruitment was minimal in the predominantly still-water main channel habitats during the drought in 2001–10, despite some recruitment in the flowing water habitats of the Chowilla anabranch system [Zampatti et al. 2014]. Nevertheless, some juvenile fish (less than 500 mm total length) were collected in main channel habitats in years following increases in river flow (for example, 2010–11 and 2011–12) [Zampatti et al. 2014]. From 2014–18, annual recruitment was detected in the main channel of the lower Murray River and these cohorts seem to have persisted in the population during subsequent years [Ye et al. 2018, SARDI unpublished data]. Recent long-term catch per unit effort electrofishing data from 2014–18 indicates similar, albeit slightly increased, abundance of Murray Cod in the main channel of the lower Murray River, relative to 2002–13, reflecting recent recruitment [Ye et al. 2018, SARDI unpublished data]. These data provide an indication of a fairly stable adult population, and periodic successful recruitment, but no evidence of any substantial increase in abundance towards historical levels prior to the mid-1960s. The above evidence indicates that the biomass of this stock is likely to be depleted and that recruitment is likely to be impaired. The above evidence indicates that the current fishing mortality is constrained by management to a level that should allow the stock to recover from its recruitment impaired state; however, measureable improvements are yet to be detected.
On the basis of the evidence provided above, Murray Cod in South Australia is classified as a depleted 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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