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Research prompts new approach to supporting silver perch

Silver perch, formerly widespread over much of the Murray-Darling Basin, has declined over most of its range. Drawing by Marjorie Crosby-Fairall.

It turns out that most silver perch in the Murray River live a whole decade less than previously thought.

This means they have less time to breed, making it important to create the right conditions to support them as often as possible.

Silver perch are nationally listed as critically endangered but they were once the most widespread of the native fish species in the Murray-Darling Basin.

Like many plant and animal species in the Basin, their numbers have declined dramatically due to river regulation, storages and increased water consumption for towns, agricultural and other economic activity.

Scientists thought silver perch lived up to 17 years of age in rivers and creeks but new research has found that most fish in the Murray River live only to seven years of age.

Silver perch reproduce from three years old. Now we know the window for breeding is so much smaller it means that if conditions are unsuitable for more than a year or two in a row, silver perch in the Murray would be under serious threat.

When this new research undertaken by the Arthur Rylah Institute and funded by the MDBA emerged earlier this year, we recognised the risk and acted. The 2017 environmental watering priorities include the need for suitable flows for silver perch every year.

The 2017 priorities also include additional flow measures that can help distribute and build silver perch populations in other suitable habitats.

Environmental water holders and water management agencies are working together to deliver the flows silver perch need for healthy populations. For example, flows in the Campaspe and Goulburn rivers have been effective in dispersing silver perch to new habitats.

For further information on basin-wide environmental watering priorities, visit:

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