Extinct native fish on the comeback

Bendigo is fast becoming the centre of a statewide push to restore populations of a fish species recently thought extinct in Victoria.

The North Central Catchment Management Authority (CMA) and City of Greater Bendigo have released another 400 southern purple spotted gudgeon into a city wetland, this time at Riley Street in East Bendigo.

The small colourful native fish was declared extinct in Victoria in 1998, however works on lakes near Kerang in 2019 discovered a small population.

Since then, through DELWP Icon Species funding, the North Central CMA, local councils, community groups, and industry leaders, have been increasing the numbers of the species, dubbed the “zombie fish”, by breeding them in dams and wetlands, including at Bendigo.

“We’ve been working closely with the City of Greater Bendigo to put the right habitat into a series of wetlands and dams across the city, with the aim of breeding the zombie fish up and getting their numbers strong again,” North Central CMA Project Manager Dr Peter Rose said.

“We’ll then translocate the fish to floodplain wetlands in the Murray corridor and in Gunbower Forest, which is where they thrived before river regulation and landscape and climate changes.

“Wetlands such as this one at Riley Street are great assets for the community and they’re also now playing an important role in helping these amazing fish.”

The City of Greater Bendigo and the CMA have also been working on re-establishing the southern pygmy perch – another threatened small native fish previously considered extinct in the Loddon catchment – into the Bendigo Creek wetland system.

“We have populations of pygmy perch at wetlands in the Harcourt Dog Park, Crook Street, the Cadella Way wetland in Strathfieldsaye, the Number 7 Reservoir frog ponds, and Murphy Street wetland,” Dr Rose said.

“During our recent monitoring we surveyed 34 spotted gudgeon and 802 pygmy perch and found that both species are breeding in our local wetlands”.

“Having pygmy perch back in the Bendigo Creek system as it was before European occupation is a fantastic result. And the spotted gudgeon numbers are going from strength to strength.”

City of Greater Bendigo Parks and Open Space Manager Chris Mitchell said the City is pleased to play a continuing role in helping bring the spotted gudgeon and pygmy perch back to local waterways.

“Our Natural Reserves staff have been supporting the efforts to bring these species back and its great to see the project is having such success in waterways across the City,” Mr Mitchell said.

“It’s been a fantastic joint project that could have significant benefits for many parts of Victoria in the future. 

“Together, we are also looking at reintroducing several other locally extinct fish species into the Bendigo Creek Catchment in the future.”

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