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

Population recovery for key threatened species –  an update on Victoria’s ‘Conservation Hatchery’ program (#64)

Jarod Lyon 1 , Tarmo Raadik 1 , Dan Stoessel 1 , Will Sowersby 2 , Anne Buchan 2 , Emily Jordon 2 , Duncan Hill 3 , Dylan White 3 , Taylor Hunt 3 , Anthony Forster 3 , Brett Ingram 3 , Katherine Grech 3
  1. Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, Melbourne, VIC, Australia
  2. DELWP, Melbourne, VIC, Australia
  3. Victorian Fisheries Authority, Melbourne, Victoria

Freshwater species face a range of threats, many of which are only increasing in intensity and frequency. While management actions (e.g. environmental flows and invasive species management; habitat restoration and rehabilitation) have been effective in ameliorating these threats in some cases, many freshwater species are continuing to decline. Several freshwater species now only persist in small, isolated populations, which are at risk of further decline as threats increase in the future, or at risk of extinction from episodic events such as bushfires.  

For species that exist in small, isolated populations, conservation translocations are likely needed to bolster natural populations, and improve the likelihood they can persist in the future. However, the small size, limited distribution, and poor genetic diversity of some populations may mean they are not capable of supporting the removal of individuals for the purpose of wild-to-wild translocation. Captive breeding for these species may be the only way to produce sufficient individuals for translocations. In addition, captive breeding has other potential advantages, such as providing the opportunity to house captive ‘insurance’ populations for particularly vulnerable species and to conduct genetic mixing experiments between populations and closely related species that are particularly vulnerable due to severe bottleneck events and inbreeding. 

Here we discuss recent investment that will support construction and operation of a fit for purpose ‘conservation hatchery’ which will be Victoria’s newest captive breeding facility and will be specifically dedicated to protecting highly endangered freshwater species.  One of the first tasks for the hatchery will be to increase freshwater species numbers that were impacted by the 2019-20 bushfires including Macquarie perch and critically endangered galaxiid species from Gippsland, in addition to species such as purple spotted gudgeon, river blackfish and South Gippsland spiny crayfish. The hatchery is expected to open in April 2023.