Hardy-heads brought back from the brink

By Country News

Four Victorian agencies have been working quietly in the state’s north to stave off the extinction of one of Australia’s most endangered native fish — with impressive results.

Since 2014, the North Central Catchment Management Authority, DELWP, the Arthur Rylah Institute and the Victorian Environmental Water Holder have been carefully managing Lake Elizabeth, near Kerang, using water for the environment to create suitable habitat and conditions to allow the establishment of the Murray hardy-head.

Murray hardy-head is a small native fish that was once widespread in rivers and wetlands of the lower Murray-Darling Basin.

‘‘The species has suffered a severe decline, with less than 10 populations remaining in the basin, and the world,’’ North Central CMA project officer Amy Russell said.

‘‘Only two of these remnant populations exist in Victoria, one in the Swan Hill region and the other near Kerang.

‘‘We are trying our best to prevent further localised extinctions and to increase their numbers by finding new wetland habitats for the species.’’

In 2015, a small number of fish were moved to Lake Elizabeth in an attempt to establish a viable population.

‘‘Lake Elizabeth’s elevated salinity and abundant plant life provided us with an opportunity to create beneficial conditions for them,’’ Ms Russell said.

‘‘Before any fish could be placed into Lake Elizabeth, we needed to get the habitat conditions and salinity levels right.

‘‘Through deliveries of water for the environment, we were able to bring the salinity level down considerably, but still keep it high enough to keep predators, such as carp, out.’’