Lagoons a haven for fish breeding

By Zoe McMaugh

Native fish breeding programs being undertaken as part of the Deniliquin Lagoons Community Restoration Project continue to bear fruit.

Juvenile Catfish are being found consistently in sampling, and newly released Southern Pygmy Perch have reached maturity to start breeding soon.

It was only in February that 200 of the perch were relocated to the lagoons, which in itself was a historic occasion for Deniliquin.

Edward Wakool Angling Association scientific officer John Conallin, who is a member of the Deniliquin Kolety Lagoon Landcare Group, said it should not be long before those released perch start to multiply.

‘‘One of the fish caught for sampling (last week) was a male in breeding colours,’’ Dr Conallin said.

‘‘They are also now big enough to breed, and we expect that will start this spring.

‘‘We’ll also be supplementing the population with more restocking later this year. We’re working with Chris Lamin at Middle Creek Farm, the hatchery breeding the perch, on that.

‘‘Sampling has also shown that the Catfish are breeding exceptionally well. We’re catching juveniles that belong to Catfish previously translocated to the lagoons.’’

Dr Conallin had help from local Year 10 students to conduct the sampling last week.  The students will officially record their statistics to be sent to NSW Fisheries.

The educational component of the program has been ongoing for a number of years, which Dr Conallin said gives the next generation a sense of ownership in the project.

‘‘We take on a new group of Year 10 students each year, and we teach them about the importance of ecology and its social aspects, and they help us with the maintenance of the lagoons system and the Edward River at Deniliquin.

‘‘This project is an example of how the community can work together to maintain its own environmental assets.’’

Other partners in the project include Yarkuwa Indigenous Knowledge Centre, Edward River Council, the Ricegrowers’ Association of Australia and Landcare.

The lagoons restoration project began in 2010 when the lagoon system was drained, removed of pest fish and plant species and refilled and restocked.

Dr Conallin said now the native fish breeding programs are well established, the next target for the group will be removing the pest species Gambusia, more commonly referred to as mosquito fish.

He said they have proven ineffective in their mission to reduce mosquito numbers, and have become prolific.

‘‘This pest competes with the natives, and winter is a good time to target them.

‘‘If we can knock out the population now and remove them the lagoons will be in a far better position.’’