Standard Talk (15 mins) Australian Society for Fish Biology Conference 2022

The Basin Plan: Water recovery and Water for the Environment all working for native fish. (#59)

Greg J Ringwood 1 , Stuart Little 1
  1. MDBA, Toowoomba, QLD, Australia

Native fish are a target to show the achievement of Basin Plan environmental outcomes, which rely on levers and mechanisms including, but not limited to, Sustainable Diversion Limits, Water Recovery, used as Water for the Environment, Compliance actions to protect flows and Complementary Measures through the Toolkit & SDLAM projects.  

2017-2019 saw the worst three years of drought on record across much of the northern Murray-Darling Basin.  This contributed to cease to flow conditions, the drying of refuge waterholes and over 60 fish death events including the Menindee fish deaths.  Critically during this extreme drought, the Commonwealth Environmental Water Office and Basin States were able to deliver over 69 GL of recovered Water for the Environment, topping up waterholes and keeping breeder adult fish alive along the Barwon-Darling System. The three events were: 

  • 2018 Northern connectivity event provided water to 2000 kms of river to
  • 2019 Northern fish flow provided water to 1500 kms of river.
  • 2020 Northern waterhole top-up combined with natural flows to provide water all the way to Menindee.

Once natural flows and floods returned to the northern Basin native fish recovery began with fish breeding.  Over 300GL of Water for the Environment has been delivered to support this native fish recruitment.  Annual fish monitoring has shown the mass recruitment of Golden perch across much of the northern Basin, down the Darling River and into Menindee Lakes nursery habitat. These fish are moving out of the lakes downstream into the Murray River and upstream into the Darling River. By helping keep breeder adult fish alive through the drought with Water for the Environment has aided the mass recruitment of Golden perch and supported the basin scale Golden perch population recovery.   


Graph showing the mass recruitment of golden perch in the Condamine-Balonne.