Biodiversity

Species Profile and Threats Database


For information to assist proponents in referral, environmental assessments and compliance issues, refer to the Policy Statements and Guidelines (where available), the Conservation Advice (where available) or the Listing Advice (where available).
 
In addition, proponents and land managers should refer to the Recovery Plan (where available) or the Conservation Advice (where available) for recovery, mitigation and conservation information.

EPBC Act Listing Status Listed as Vulnerable as Maccullochella peelii
Listing and Conservation Advices Commonwealth Listing Advice on Maccullochella peelii peelii (Murray Cod, Cod, Goodoo) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2003i) [Listing Advice].
 
Recovery Plan Decision Recovery Plan required, included on the Commenced List (1/11/2009).
 
Adopted/Made Recovery Plans National Recovery Plan for the Murray Cod Maccullochella peelii peelii (National Murray Cod Recovery Team, 2010) [Recovery Plan] as Maccullochella peelii.
 
Policy Statements and Guidelines Survey guidelines for Australia's threatened fish. EPBC Act survey guidelines 6.4 (Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (DSEWPaC), 2011i) [Admin Guideline].
 
Information Sheets Information Sheet - Murray Cod (Maccullochella peelii peelii) (Environment Australia, 2003y) [Information Sheet].
 
The Status of the Murray Cod in the Murray-Darling Basin (Kearney, R.E & M.A. Kildea, 2001) [Information Sheet].
 
Background and Implementation Information for the National Recovery Plan for the Murray Cod Maccullochella peelii peelii (National Murray Cod Recovery Team, 2010a) [Information Sheet].
 
Federal Register of
    Legislative Instruments
Inclusion of species in the list of threatened species under section 178 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (03/06/2003) (Commonwealth of Australia, 2003d) [Legislative Instrument] as Maccullochella peelii peelii.
 
Amendment to the list of threatened species under section 178 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (119) (01/08/2011) (Commonwealth of Australia, 2011e) [Legislative Instrument] as Maccullochella peelii.
 
State Government
    Documents and Websites
QLD:Enhancing biodiversity hotspots along Western Queensland stock routes (Queensland Department of Environment and Resource Management (Qld DERM), 2009a) [Management Plan].
SA:Action plan for South Australian freshwater fishes (Hammer M., S. Wedderburn & J. Van Weenen, 2009) [State Action Plan].
State Listing Status
VIC: Listed as Threatened (Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988 (Victoria): May 2014 list) as Maccullochella peelii
Non-statutory Listing Status
IUCN: Listed as Critically Endangered (Global Status: IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: 2013.1 list)
VIC: Listed as Vulnerable (Advisory List of Threatened Vertebrate Fauna in Victoria: 2013 list)
Scientific name Maccullochella peelii [66633]
Family Percichthyidae:Perciformes:Actinopterygii:Chordata:Animalia
Species author (Mitchell, 1838)
Infraspecies author  
Reference http://www.mdbc.gov.au/subs/fish-info/native_info/murrayCod.html
Other names Maccullochella peelii peelii [68443]
Distribution map Species Distribution Map

This is an indicative distribution map of the present distribution of the species based on best available knowledge. See map caveat for more information.

Illustrations Google Images
http://www.nativefish.asn.au/cod.html

Scientific name: Maccullochella peelii

Common name: Murray Cod

Other names: Goodoo, Codfish, Greenfish

The Murray Cod is one of four species belonging to the genus Maccullochella. Other species in the genus are the Mary River Cod, Maccullochella mariensis; Trout Cod, Maccullochella macquariensis; and Eastern Freshwater Cod, Maccullochella ikei. All species are threatened, with the Murray Cod being Vulnerable and the rest Endangered. The Murray Cod is most closely related to the Mary River Cod but shares a similar appearance to the Trout Cod; this has caused confusion in identification of the species. The Trout Cod was first described in 1829 and the Murray Cod in 1838 (National Murray Cod Recovery Team 2009).

The Murray Cod is the largest freshwater fish found in Australia, growing up to 1.8 m in length and weighing over 100 kg (although most commonly weighing 10 kg) (McDowall 1996). It possesses a broad, depressed head with a rounded snout and a concave forehead profile. It has a large mouth and jaws that are approximately equal in length. The caudal fin is rounded and 65–81 scales are present in the lateral line. It is olive-green with small brown spots, rounded pectoral (side) fins, creamy white undersides and sometimes with red on fin edges (Whitley 1980). The species is a long-lived predator (TSSC 2003i) that is highly territorial and will aggressively attack any fish entering its area (Ye et al. 2000). The species rate of growth varies probably due to temperature, habitat and food availability; however, it does not vary between sexes. Murray Cod older than five years gain 1–1.5 kg per year in rivers and 2–2.5 kg per year in warm impoundments (Kearney et al. 2001).

Natural distribution
The Murray Cod is found extensively throughout the Murray Darling Basin in the south-eastern region of Australia. Its range throughout the Basin includes South Australia, Victoria, NSW, ACT and Queensland. Historically the species occurred throughout the entire Basin, with the exception of the upper reaches of some tributaries. It still occurs throughout most of the Basin with the exception of some localised extinctions. The Murray Darling Basin contains approximately 13 245 km of waterways that may encompass areas of suitable habitat for the Murray Cod. The estimated extent of occurrence is 660 km² (TSSC 2003i). Some translocated populations exist outside the species' natural distribution in impoundments and waterways in NSW and Victoria (TSSC 2003i).

There have been numerous attempts to translocate populations of Murray Cod by government authorities, acclimatisation societies and private individuals, primarily for the purpose of expanding its range. Many translocated populations persisted for several years though few, if any, established self-sustaining populations. Those translocated populations that currently exist in NSW and Victoria are maintained by the release of hatchery-bred fish. Populations previously translocated within Queensland and Western Australia no longer exist, though some specimens may exist in the aquarium trade (TSSC 2003i).

Introduced distributions
Successful hatchery breeding of the Murray Cod has occurred for many years. Both hatchery-bred and wild caught fish have been translocated outside the natural range. The species has been introduced in the Cooper Creek system in Queensland and South Australia. In Queensland it has also been introduced to the Burnett and Fitzroy River systems. In NSW it occurs in Cataract Dam and the Nepean River system. In Victoria it has been introduced in the Yarra River, Wimmera River and several isolated lakes in the Wimmera region, including Lake Charlegrark. Murray Cod is found in the Light River in South Australia. There have been unsuccessful attempts to establish the species in Western Australia (TSSC 2003i).

Interim Biogeographic Regionalisation for Australia Bioregion distribution
Within its range, the Murray Cod occurs naturally in the following IBRA bioregions: Murray-Darling Depression, Riverina, NSW South western slopes, South Eastern Highlands, Cobar Peneplain, Darling Riverine Plains, Brigalow Belt South and Nandewar (National Murray Cod Recovery Team 2009).

A number of surveys have been conducted on the Murray Cod. The Codwatch newsletter published in the 1990s documents the results of such surveys (see appendix III, Koehn 2006).

Trends in commercial fishing catch, as an approximate index of population size, indicate a significant reduction (decline) since the 1950s of at least 30% over the last three generations, assuming a generation time of 20 years. Declines were dramatic during the 1960s, and catches remained very low through to the 1980s, resulting in a fishing prohibition in the early 1990s (Hammer et al. 2009ct).

The Murray Cod has the ability to live in a diverse range of habitats, including clear rocky streams (such as those found in the upper western slopes of NSW), to slow flowing, turbid rivers and billabongs (McDowall 1996). It is demersal (Koehn 2009b cited in Koehn & Nicol 2014) and usually found near complex structural cover such as large rocks, snags, overhanging vegetation, overhanging banks and other woody structures. It uses these points to shelter from fast-flowing water (Koehn 1997).

A Murray Cod radio tracking study has been conducted in a 40 km reach of the Murray River, downstream of Lake Mulwala (Koehn & Nicol 2014). This river in this region is a "large, lowland river situated on low-gradient riverine plains, with low energy, and is characterised by meandering bends. The species was strongly associated with structural woody habitat (>68% cover), deeper (>2.4 m), slower water (<0.2 m s-1) closer to the river bank. Murray Cod and Trout Cod were found in deeper and faster water, and deeper in the water column, than other tracked species (Golden Perch (Macquaria ambigua) and Carp (Cyprinus carpio)). The species only uses a small proportion of habitat, and is strongly influenced by the presence of structural woody debris (Koehn & Nicol 2014).

The Murray Cod is considered a main channel specialist as it is frequently found in the main river channel and larger tributaries. It is found in floodplain channels when they contain water; although this usage appears limited. Juveniles are most commonly found in the main river channel until about one year of age, after which they branch out (National Murray Cod Recovery Team 2009).

The Murray Cod reaches sexual maturity at 4 to 5 years of age and at 2 to 3 kg in weight. The species has relatively low fertility compared to many other freshwater fish (Native Fish 2004). A female weighing around 3 kg can produce approximately 10 000 eggs whereas a female around 23 kg produces up to 90 000 eggs (Kearney & Kildea 2001).

The species migrates upstream prior to spawning in late spring and early summer when the water reaches a temperatue of between 16-21°C. This change in temperature provides the stimulus for spawning (Kearney & Kildea 2001). Murray Cod form pairs prior to breeding. A spawning site is selected, usually a sunken red gum log in lowland rivers, or a submerged rock in upland streams, although Murray Cod have been recorded excavating and laying eggs in depressions in clay banks as well. The female is believed to clean the breeding site with her tail before laying her large adhesive eggs as a large mat on the spawning surface. The male then squirts his milt over the eggs fertilising them (Native Fish 2004). Hatching usually occurs 5-7 days after fertilisation, and a batch of eggs takes 3-4 days to hatch (Kearney & Kildea 2001). The larvae then drift downriver, prior to the fry settling out in suitable protected habitat (TSSC 2003i).

Growth of hatched Murray Cod in rivers in southern NSW has been estimated at 230, 340, 460, 560, and 640 mm after years one to five respectively (Native Fish 2004).

The Murray Cod is the top predator of Australia's inland rivers. Cod are carnivorous and, at times, voracious feeders (McDowall 1996). The diet changes with age, with the typical adult diet consisting of spiny crayfish, yabbies and shrimps (National Murray Cod Recovery Team 2009). It also feeds on the following fish:

  • Common Carp (introduced)
  • Goldfish and Redfin Perch (introduced)
  • Bony Herring
  • Catfish
  • Golden Perch
  • Western Carp Gudgeon
  • other Cod species.

Other species found in the diet include ducks, cormorants, grebes, tortoises, water dragons, snakes, mice, frogs and mussels. Upon hatching, larvae are 5–8 mm long and within 8–10 days are able to feed on zooplankton. After reaching a length of 15–20 mm, they begin to feed on aquatic insects (Kearney & Kildea 2001; Native Fish 2004).

The species is sedentary during late summer, autumn and winter (Koehn 1997), staying within its "territory", which usually consists of a specific hole, snag or area of a river or lake (Kearney & Kildea 2001). During spring and early summer, when the water reaches a temperature of between 16–21°C (TSSC 2003i), the Murray Cod migrates upstream prior to spawning. A Murray Cod radio-tracking project in the early 1990s, in which large Murray Cod were fitted with transmitting radio tags, revealed that migratory tendencies and distances travelled vary considerably between individual Cod, but many fish travel 40 or 50 km upstream and some travel up to 120 km upstream. Floods are important in stimulating these migrations; fish tend not to migrate if there are no floods (Koehn 1997; Native Fish 2004).

Following spawning, the species moves back downstream, returning to the same territory occupied before (Koehn 1997). This remarkable homing behaviour is almost unknown in freshwater fish and emphasises the importance of snags to Murray Cod (Native Fish 2004). Young Murray Cod become territorial and behave aggressively towards other cod from 40–50 mm in length, and adults are considered solitary and highly territorial, although anglers report the capture of several similar size cod from the one location, indicating aggregations may occur (Kearney & Kildea 2001).

The threats to the Murray Cod are well documented and summarized in a variety of publications (Koehn 2005; Lintermans et al. 2005; National Murray Cod Recovery Team 2009). The species has undergone a marked decline since European settlement; many threats are widely known, though remain poorly quantified. Less direct threats are also poorly quantified (Koehn 2005). The current and suspected threats impacting the Murray Cod are as follows:

Flow regulation
The Murray-Darling Basin is a primary agricultural region for Australia providing water for farmers within the region. Flow regulation is achieved through water impoundments, irrigation channels and direct pumping from rivers. This alters the natural flow regime of the basin, resulting in reduction of flow rates, volume, long periods of low or no flow and a reduction in seasonal variation, including flood events (National Murray Cod Recovery Team 2009).

Debate regarding the importance of flow regime on native fish species is varied; however recent reports suggest the recruitment success of the Murray Cod is directly linked to river flow (Kearney & Kildea 2001; Rowland 1998; Ye et al. 2000). It is believed that rising water levels and flood events are triggers for spawning and survival of young fish. The reduction of these events is attributed to decline in the species due to a lack of suitable spawning conditions. Flow reduction also affects the migratory ability of the species as well as reducing the amount of habitat available. Dams and wiers can act as barriers to fish and cooler waters downstream from dams may inhibit spawning and slow growth (National Murray Cod Recovery Team 2009).

Habitat degradation
The Murray Cod relies on snags (trees or branches found in rivers or lakes) for habitat and shelter. In previous decades de-snagging occurred extensively to assist navigation, improve water flow, mitigate floods and protect infrastructure (i.e. bridges). Since European settlement, an estimated one million snags have been removed from the system. The snags are often River Red Gums, which are resilient to rot and ideal for fish habitats. While de-snagging rarely occurs today, removal of snags from dry flood channels still occurs. The Murray Cod uses these channels when they carry water. The cumulative effects of such actions are most likely substantial and the widespread effects of de-snagging may still impact Murray Cod populations. The reinstatement of woody habitat has been identified as a priority for river restoration (MDBC 2004).

Lowered water quality
A reduction in water quality can be achieved through flow diversion, impoundment or sustained dry periods. As a result water temperatures vary, dissolved oxygen levels decline and nutrients and environmental contaminates fluctuate. Cold water release from dams is known to lower the overall water temperature of a river by 15 ºC, this typically extends 100–150 km downstream from the dam wall. Surveys have shown that juvenile Murray Cod raised in 24 ºC grow twice as long and 3.5 times as heavy as those found in 13 ºC water over a three month period (Ryan et al. 2003). Nutrient run-off from urban and agricultural regions can cause an increase in phytoplankton, reducing oxygen levels (Anderson & Morison 1989). Increased salinity within the Murray Darling Basin has lead to de-oxygenated and saline bottom layers. Adult Murray Cod have a degree of tolerance to increased salinity; however, young fish are more sensitive. The increased salinity may also affect the Murray Cods food sources (National Murray Cod Recovery Team 2009).

Barriers
There are more than 3600 structures in the Murray Darling Basin that act as barriers to native fish species. Recent studies into Murray Cod movements indicate upstream and downstream movements and a nocturnal downstream drifting process for larvae. Hence barriers may interfere with spawning movements and isolate populations. Isolated populations can cause genetic drift and a loss of genetic variability (National Murray Cod Recovery Team 2009).

Alien species
The Murray Darling Basin contains 11 species of alien fish. The most common of these are the Carp, Cyprinus carpio, Redfin Perch, Perca fluviatilis, Goldfish, Carassius auratus and Eastern Gambusia, Gambusia holbrooki. Although there is little scientific evidence to support the claim that Carp is affecting Murray Cod numbers (Koehn et al. 2000), there is a correlation between high numbers of Carp and low numbers of Murray Cod. Young Carp may provide a food source for the Murray Cod; and increasing Murray Cod numbers in NSW has corresponded to low numbers of Carp and Redfin Perch. The possible impacts of introduced species include, predation, competition, habitat alteration, diseases and parasites. High densities of Carp may reduce aquatic vegetation through their feeding habitats (Koehn 2005).

Commercial fishing
Murray Cod catches from commercial fishing underwent a dramatic decline in the last century. During the 1950s approximately 300 tonnes of Murray Cod were caught a year but by the 1990s this figure dropped to below 10 tonnes. Peak catches occurred in the 1900s, however the industry continued in various capacities until 2003 (Koehn 2005; National Murray Cod Recovery Team 2009).

Recreational fishing
Catch numbers indicate 216 tonnes of Murray Cod were caught in a 12 month period from March 2000. This corresponds to an estimated 106 000 fish. On the other hand, 368 000 Murray Cod were caught and released within the same period (Park et al. 2005). The removal of fish above 50 cm may have major impacts on population structure and sustainability. Fish near the 50 cm mark are at the beginning of the breeding age; removal of these fish may occur before they have had the chance to breed. This can lead to population instability and crashes (Nicol et al. 2005). The use of set-lines that target large breeding adults may also impact population dynamics; as a result the use of this technique is under review in NSW and South Australia. Recreational fishing is subject to regulations in all states and territories in which the Murray Cod occurs. High release rates from anglers indicate compliance with size requirements. There is also a growing trend amongst anglers to practice catch and release however the impact of this is not well known. Murray Cod are sensitive to handling and susceptible to fungal infections with the removal of skin mucous and scales (National Murray Cod Recovery Team 2009).

Illegal fishing
In South Australia and NSW, fishery officers have reported hundreds of illegal traps each year. Although not yet quantified, catches from illegal fishing are estimated to be high, possibly higher than that of recreational fishing (Lintermans et al. 2005).

Genetic issues
Stocking and translocation for hatchery-bred fish does cause a loss of genetic diversity gained from breeding wild populations. Genetic studies on wild and hatchery-bred fish demonstrated that hatchery-bred populations lacked the genetic diversity of wild populations (Bearlin & Tikel 2003). This has raised concerns over breeding between wild and hatchery populations as it may produce a narrower genetic base, although further study is needed to confirm this concern (National Murray Cod Recovery Team 2009).

Disease
The occurrence and impact of diseases on the Murray Cod is not well known, however, the major concern relates to exotic diseases carried by introduced species. Diseases and pathogens of particular concern include:

  • Epizootic Haematopoietic Necrosis (EHN) virus
  • Viral Encephalopathy and Retinopathy (VER)
  • Goldfish Ulcer Disease (GUD)
  • Asian Fish Tapeworm, Bothriocephalus acheilognathis
  • Parasitic copepod Anchorworm, Lernaea cyprinacea.

The Redfin Perch is a carrier of the EHN virus and the Murray Cod is highly susceptible to it. Hatchery populations are of concern as they have the potential to introduce new diseases to the wild. However all hatcheries breeding Murray Cod need to comply with the National Policy for the Translocation of Live Aquatic Organisms guidelines (MCFFA 1999), requiring disease screening prior to release.

Stocking and translocation
From 2000 to 2007 NSW released over five million Murray Cod fingerlings into the Basin. Victoria also stocks around 200 000 fish annually. It has been an effective way of reviving fish populations within the Basin. The process of translocation involves moving wild fish from one area of the Basin to another (e.g. moving Murray Cod from a drying river to a full river). This process generally occurs without consideration given to the new location and the effect the increase in numbers may have on the ecosystem. The stocking of fish is criticised for two main reasons: first, the narrowing of genetic diversity and second its being seen to be a 'panacea' to declining populations. While it is a relatively easy management option, it may mask the more difficult and costly management issues. This can include management of habitat improvement, threat abatement and exploitation rates (National Murray Cod Recovery Team 2009).

Climate change
Climate change may potentially impact the Murray Darling Basin region. The major concerns are the prediction of an overall reduction in rainfall. Normal rainfall patterns are predicted to change; with less rain in the winter and spring and more in the summer. The length of dry periods is expected to increase, as is the frequency of extreme rainfall events and the temperature. The overall effect of these changes will be increased evaporation and less water in the rivers. This will add increased pressure on the Murray Cod by restricting the available habitat. It is predicted that fish kills will increase during dry periods and fish populations will be under more pressure from recreational fishing (National Murray Cod Recovery Team 2009).

The Native Fish Strategy for the Murray-Darling Basin 2003–2013

The goal of this strategy is to bring native fish populations within the Murray Darling Basin back to 60% of the population prior to European settlement, after 50 years of implementation. The strategy (MDBC 2004) outlines thirteen objectives to achieve this goal. Objectives directly addressing the threats faced by the Murray Cod include:

  • repair and protect key components of aquatic and riparian habitats important for sustaining native fish populations
  • rehabilitate and protect the natural functioning of wetlands and floodplain habitats for native fish; and revive the links between terrestrial ecosystems, wetlands and rivers
  • improve key aspects of water quality that affect native fish
  • modify flow regulation practices to facilitate native fish rehabilitation
  • increase understanding of fish diseases and parasites, and to protect native fish from such threats.

Six driving actions have been devised including, rehabilitating fish habitats, protecting fish habitat, managing riverine structures, controlling alien fish species, protecting native fish species and managing fish translocation and stocking. The strategy defines roles for key stakeholders including; federal government, state and local governments, the Murray-Darling Basin Commission, non-government organisations, individuals and communities. The strategy budget dedicates 10% of the funding to monitoring and evaluating the project. Strategy reviews take place at five and ten years.

Reintroduction of woody debris

The reintoduction  of structural woody habitat patches for rehabilitation of habitat, particularly in low gradient riverine plains, for the Murray Cod should have >70% cover, be >1.5 m high, located <15% of the river channel (width) closest to the bank, in areas with surface velocities of 0.3-0.6 m s-1 (Koehn & Nicol 2014).

State and Territory based programs

Australian Capital Territory
There are currently no research programs active in the territory that are focused on wild Murray Cod. The riverine and urban lakes monitoring does provide limited growth, survival and ecology information on the species (National Murray Cod Recovery Team 2009).

NSW
There are a number of research projects occurring within NSW. In particular there is a project assessing the short and long term survival rates of Murray Cod after release from anglers. Broader projects extending into NSW include one by Primary Industries Research Victoria (PIRVic) and funded by the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (FRDC). This project aims to assess population sensitivity to fishing impacts. The NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) conducts numerous freshwater fish monitoring programs including Murray Cod stock assessment (National Murray Cod Recovery Team 2009).

South Australia
In South Australia, ex-commercial fisherman have been utilised to collect information about the relative abundance, size, composition and biological data. This particular project is part of a Native Fish Monitoring project (PIRSA). Electro-fishing surveys are conducted as a part of the Murray River Fishways Assessment Project (MDBC) to investigate ad-hoc Murray Cod size composition and relative abundance. The Chowilla Fish Ecology Project (MDBC) examines spawning, recruitment and movement of the Murray Cod. The Katarapko Demonstration Reach Fish investigations (MDBC) investigates fish ecology in the Katarapko Creek system. The Fish Habitat Assessment of the SA River Murray Main Channel project (SA MDB NRM Board) investigates fish habitat in the lower Murray River and seeks to develop tools to assist conservation managers in planning associated with freshwater river systems (National Murray Cod Recovery Team 2009).

The Action Plan for South Australian Freshwater Fishes (2009), has the following recovery objectives for the Murray cod:

  • Restore environmental conditions to promote a self-sustaining population.
  • Protect an adequate spawning biomass of adult Murray Cod.
  • Better define biology in South Australia (recruitment, habitat requirements, migration).
  • Develop an appropriate index to track population status.
  • Maintain and enhance the high profile of Murray Cod as a tool for conservation.

The plan lists the Murray Cod as an endangered species within South Australia. However, under State government legislation, the species is not listed (Hammer et al. 2009ct).

Victoria
Victoria is undertaking a range of projects aimed at investigating the ecology of fish communities, impacts of particular threatening activities and responses to rehabilitation activities. These include the recruitment ecology of fish (King et al. 2007), the use of anabranches and irrigation channels and response to re-snagging and the effects of thermal pollution in the Mitta Mitta River and in the Murray River downstream of Lake Hume (National Murray Cod Recovery Team 2009; Sherman et al. 2007, Todd et al. 2005). Projects relating specifically to the Murray Cod include:

  • Koehn (2006): Determination of habitat requirements and movements associated with the Murray Cod
  • an assessment of survival rates of stocked fish
  • investigations into sustainable recreational fisheries for Murray Cod
  • a modelling project to address different management scenarios for the species.

Queensland
There are currently no priority actions in Queensland, however, programs are being developed (National Murray Cod Recovery Team 2009).

Draft National Recovery Plan for the Murray Cod

The draft recovery plan, when completed, will be the first national plan prepared for the species. The target of restoring fish populations to 60% of pre-European levels after 50 years has been chosen to align the plan with the MDBC Native Fish Strategy. The plan identifies the need to research the status, key biological and ecological attributes including, current distribution, population structure, spawning cues, movement, habitat and flow requirements of the Murray Cod. This is seen as central to the species recovery. The long term objective of recovery is to have self-sustaining populations managed for conservation, fishing and culture. The plan lists seven significant objectives for recovery:

  • Determine the distribution, structure and dynamics of Murray Cod populations across the MDB.
  • Manage river flows to enhance recruitment to Murray Cod populations.
  • Evaluate the risks of threats and benefits of recovery options on Murray Cod populations for each management unit.
  • Determine the habitat requirements of Murray Cod life stages and populations.
  • Manage the recreational fishery for Murray Cod in a sustainable manner while recognising the social, economic and recreational value of the fishery.
  • Encourage community ownership for Murray Cod conservation.
  • Manage Recovery Plan implementation.

To achieve these objectives the strategy includes 71 actions to be undertaken across a wide range of stakeholders. The national Murray Cod Taskforce (MCT), which was established under the MDBC Native Fish Strategy Implementation Working Group (NFSIWG), is tasked with overseeing coordination of the recovery plan. Any technical, scientific, habitat management or education issue requiring skills not available within the Recovery Team will be referred to specialist organizations and individuals as appropriate. Evaluation and reviews are to be conducted every five years to assess the plans performance against the objectives and make adjustments as necessary (National Murray Cod Recovery Team 2009).

The Living Murray

The Living Murray project focuses on restoring the health of six sites along the Murray River. The six sites are:

  • The Lower Lakes, Coorong and Murray Mouth (1400 km)
  • The Murray River Channel (2150 km)
  • The Chowilla Floodplain and Lindsay-Wallpolla Islands (377 km²)
  • Hattah Lakes (490 km²)
  • The Gunbower-Koondrook-Perricoota Forest (500 km²)
  • The Barmah-Millewa Forest (660 km²).

Four major initiatives to achieve this have been identified, these are; recovering water, delivering water to icon sites, environmental works and measures and community consultation. To date over $700 million has been allocated to recovering water and many infrastructure based projects are underway (The Living Murray 2007).

The Native Fish Strategy for the Murray-Darling Basin 2003-2013 (MDBC 2004) seeks to rehabilitate native fish communities in the Murray-Darling Basin back to 60% of their estimated pre- European settlement levels after 50 years of implementation.

The Living Murray Project (Living Murray 2007) seeks to restore the health of six areas within the basin.

The Draft National Recovery Plan for the Murray Cod Maccullochella peelii peelii (Mitchell, 1938) (National Murray Cod Recovery Team 2009) has been developed with the MDBC and both the Federal and State Governments in which the Murray Cod occurs. The document aligns itself with the Native Fish Strategy and provides guidelines and actions required to save the Murray Cod. It differs from the Native Fish Strategy by being solely focused on the Murray Cod.

The following table lists known and perceived threats to this species. Threats are based on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) threat classification version 1.1.

Threat Class Threatening Species References
Biological Resource Use:Fishing and Harvesting Aquatic Resources:Commercial harvest National Recovery Plan for the Murray Cod Maccullochella peelii peelii (National Murray Cod Recovery Team, 2010) [Recovery Plan].
Biological Resource Use:Fishing and Harvesting Aquatic Resources:Habitat modification and negative impacts on species numbers due to recreational fishing National Recovery Plan for the Murray Cod Maccullochella peelii peelii (National Murray Cod Recovery Team, 2010) [Recovery Plan].
Biological Resource Use:Fishing and Harvesting Aquatic Resources:Illegal take National Recovery Plan for the Murray Cod Maccullochella peelii peelii (National Murray Cod Recovery Team, 2010) [Recovery Plan].
Commonwealth Listing Advice on Maccullochella peelii peelii (Murray Cod, Cod, Goodoo) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2003i) [Listing Advice].
Biological Resource Use:Fishing and Harvesting Aquatic Resources:Overfishing, competition with fishing operations and overfishing of prey fishing National Recovery Plan for the Murray Cod Maccullochella peelii peelii (National Murray Cod Recovery Team, 2010) [Recovery Plan].
Commonwealth Listing Advice on Maccullochella peelii peelii (Murray Cod, Cod, Goodoo) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2003i) [Listing Advice].
Biological Resource Use:Hunting and Collecting Terrestrial Animals:Illegal hunting/harvesting and collection National Recovery Plan for the Murray Cod Maccullochella peelii peelii (National Murray Cod Recovery Team, 2010) [Recovery Plan].
Climate Change and Severe Weather:Climate Change and Severe Weather:Climate change altering atmosphere/hydrosphere temperatures, rainfall patterns and/or frequency of severe weather events National Recovery Plan for the Murray Cod Maccullochella peelii peelii (National Murray Cod Recovery Team, 2010) [Recovery Plan].
Climate Change and Severe Weather:Climate Change and Severe Weather:Habitat changes caused by climate change National Recovery Plan for the Murray Cod Maccullochella peelii peelii (National Murray Cod Recovery Team, 2010) [Recovery Plan].
Climate Change and Severe Weather:Climate Change and Severe Weather:Reduced rainfall caused by climate change National Recovery Plan for the Murray Cod Maccullochella peelii peelii (National Murray Cod Recovery Team, 2010) [Recovery Plan].
Climate Change and Severe Weather:Habitat Shifting and Alteration:Habitat modification with associated erosion National Recovery Plan for the Murray Cod Maccullochella peelii peelii (National Murray Cod Recovery Team, 2010) [Recovery Plan].
Climate Change and Severe Weather:Habitat Shifting and Alteration:Habitat modification, destruction and alteration due to changes in land use patterns National Recovery Plan for the Murray Cod Maccullochella peelii peelii (National Murray Cod Recovery Team, 2010) [Recovery Plan].
Climate Change and Severe Weather:Temperature Extremes:Elevated water temperatures National Recovery Plan for the Murray Cod Maccullochella peelii peelii (National Murray Cod Recovery Team, 2010) [Recovery Plan].
Climate Change and Severe Weather:Temperature Extremes:temperature change National Recovery Plan for the Murray Cod Maccullochella peelii peelii (National Murray Cod Recovery Team, 2010) [Recovery Plan].
Ecosystem/Community Stresses:Ecosystem Degradation:Reduced dissolved oxygen levels in waterways National Recovery Plan for the Murray Cod Maccullochella peelii peelii (National Murray Cod Recovery Team, 2010) [Recovery Plan].
Ecosystem/Community Stresses:Indirect Ecosystem Effects:Loss and/or fragmentation of habitat and/or subpopulations Commonwealth Listing Advice on Maccullochella peelii peelii (Murray Cod, Cod, Goodoo) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2003i) [Listing Advice].
Human Intrusions and Disturbance:Human Intrusions and Disturbance:inappropriate conservation measures National Recovery Plan for the Murray Cod Maccullochella peelii peelii (National Murray Cod Recovery Team, 2010) [Recovery Plan].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Introduced Genetic Material: National Recovery Plan for the Murray Cod Maccullochella peelii peelii (National Murray Cod Recovery Team, 2010) [Recovery Plan].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Competition and/or predation Carassius auratus (Goldfish) National Recovery Plan for the Murray Cod Maccullochella peelii peelii (National Murray Cod Recovery Team, 2010) [Recovery Plan].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Competition and/or predation Gambusia holbrooki (Eastern Gambusia, Mosquitofish) National Recovery Plan for the Murray Cod Maccullochella peelii peelii (National Murray Cod Recovery Team, 2010) [Recovery Plan].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Competition and/or predation Perca fluviatilis (Redfin, Redfin Perch) National Recovery Plan for the Murray Cod Maccullochella peelii peelii (National Murray Cod Recovery Team, 2010) [Recovery Plan].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Competition, predation and/or habitat degradation Cyprinus carpio (European Carp, Common Carp) National Recovery Plan for the Murray Cod Maccullochella peelii peelii (National Murray Cod Recovery Team, 2010) [Recovery Plan].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Competition, predation and/or habitat degradation by fish National Recovery Plan for the Murray Cod Maccullochella peelii peelii (National Murray Cod Recovery Team, 2010) [Recovery Plan].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Presence of pathogens and resulting disease National Recovery Plan for the Murray Cod Maccullochella peelii peelii (National Murray Cod Recovery Team, 2010) [Recovery Plan].
Natural System Modifications:Dams and Water Management/Use:Alteration of hydrological regimes and water quality National Recovery Plan for the Murray Cod Maccullochella peelii peelii (National Murray Cod Recovery Team, 2010) [Recovery Plan].
Natural System Modifications:Dams and Water Management/Use:Changes in hydrology including habitat drainage National Recovery Plan for the Murray Cod Maccullochella peelii peelii (National Murray Cod Recovery Team, 2010) [Recovery Plan].
Natural System Modifications:Dams and Water Management/Use:Changes to habitat hydrology National Recovery Plan for the Murray Cod Maccullochella peelii peelii (National Murray Cod Recovery Team, 2010) [Recovery Plan].
Natural System Modifications:Dams and Water Management/Use:Changes to hydrology due to water diversion National Recovery Plan for the Murray Cod Maccullochella peelii peelii (National Murray Cod Recovery Team, 2010) [Recovery Plan].
Natural System Modifications:Dams and Water Management/Use:Changes to hydrology including construction of dams/barriers National Recovery Plan for the Murray Cod Maccullochella peelii peelii (National Murray Cod Recovery Team, 2010) [Recovery Plan].
Commonwealth Listing Advice on Maccullochella peelii peelii (Murray Cod, Cod, Goodoo) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2003i) [Listing Advice].
Natural System Modifications:Dams and Water Management/Use:Habitat degradation caused by channel maintenance National Recovery Plan for the Murray Cod Maccullochella peelii peelii (National Murray Cod Recovery Team, 2010) [Recovery Plan].
Natural System Modifications:Dams and Water Management/Use:Habitat modification due to levee construction and associated hydrology changes National Recovery Plan for the Murray Cod Maccullochella peelii peelii (National Murray Cod Recovery Team, 2010) [Recovery Plan].
Natural System Modifications:Dams and Water Management/Use:Impacts associated with reductions in flooding frequency National Recovery Plan for the Murray Cod Maccullochella peelii peelii (National Murray Cod Recovery Team, 2010) [Recovery Plan].
Natural System Modifications:Dams and Water Management/Use:Riparian vegetation degradation National Recovery Plan for the Murray Cod Maccullochella peelii peelii (National Murray Cod Recovery Team, 2010) [Recovery Plan].
Natural System Modifications:Dams and Water Management/Use:Salinity National Recovery Plan for the Murray Cod Maccullochella peelii peelii (National Murray Cod Recovery Team, 2010) [Recovery Plan].
Natural System Modifications:Fire and Fire Suppression:Inappropriate fire regimes including natural wildfires National Recovery Plan for the Murray Cod Maccullochella peelii peelii (National Murray Cod Recovery Team, 2010) [Recovery Plan].
Natural System Modifications:Other Ecosystem Modifications:Removal of wood snags from waterways National Recovery Plan for the Murray Cod Maccullochella peelii peelii (National Murray Cod Recovery Team, 2010) [Recovery Plan].
Commonwealth Listing Advice on Maccullochella peelii peelii (Murray Cod, Cod, Goodoo) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2003i) [Listing Advice].
Pollution:Agricultural Effluents:Herbicide application National Recovery Plan for the Murray Cod Maccullochella peelii peelii (National Murray Cod Recovery Team, 2010) [Recovery Plan].
Pollution:Household Sewage and Urban Waste Water:Pollution (chemicals, sewage) due to urban and agricultural run-off National Recovery Plan for the Murray Cod Maccullochella peelii peelii (National Murray Cod Recovery Team, 2010) [Recovery Plan].
Pollution:Pollution:Changes to water and sediment flows leading to erosion, siltation and pollution National Recovery Plan for the Murray Cod Maccullochella peelii peelii (National Murray Cod Recovery Team, 2010) [Recovery Plan].
Pollution:Pollution:Habitat degradation and loss of water quality due to salinity, siltaton, nutrification and/or pollution National Recovery Plan for the Murray Cod Maccullochella peelii peelii (National Murray Cod Recovery Team, 2010) [Recovery Plan].
Species Stresses:Indirect Species Effects:Low genetic diversity and genetic inbreeding National Recovery Plan for the Murray Cod Maccullochella peelii peelii (National Murray Cod Recovery Team, 2010) [Recovery Plan].
Commonwealth Listing Advice on Maccullochella peelii peelii (Murray Cod, Cod, Goodoo) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2003i) [Listing Advice].
Species Stresses:Indirect Species Effects:Low numbers of individuals Commonwealth Listing Advice on Maccullochella peelii peelii (Murray Cod, Cod, Goodoo) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2003i) [Listing Advice].
Species Stresses:Indirect Species Effects:Poor recruitment (regeneration) and declining population numbers Commonwealth Listing Advice on Maccullochella peelii peelii (Murray Cod, Cod, Goodoo) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2003i) [Listing Advice].

Anderson, J.R. & A.K. Morison (1989). Environmental flow studies for the Wimmera River, Victoria, Summary Report. Victoria: Department of Conservation and Environment.

Bearlin, A.A. & D. Tikel (2003). Conservation genetics of Murray-Darling Basin fish; silver perch, Murray Cod and trout cod. In: Managing fish translocation and stocking in the Murray-Darling Basin. Proceedings of a workshop held in Canberra 25-26 September 2002. Page(s) 59-82. Australia: World Wildlife Fund.

Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (DSEWPaC) (2011i). Survey guidelines for Australia's threatened fish. EPBC Act survey guidelines 6.4 . [Online]. EPBC Act policy statement. Canberra, ACT: DSEWPAC. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/epbc/publications/threatened-fish.html.

Hammer M., S. Wedderburn & J. Van Weenen (2009). Action plan for South Australian freshwater fishes. [Online]. Adelaide: Native Fish Australia (SA), Department for Environment and Heritage, Government of South Australia. Available from: http://www.environment.sa.gov.au/Plants_and_Animals/Threatened_species_and_ecological_communities/Conservation_status_of_threatened_species/State.

Kearney, R.E & M.A. Kildea (2001). The Status of the Murray Cod in the Murray-Darling Basin. [Online]. Environment Australia. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/resource/status-murray-cod-murray-darling-basin.

King, A., Z. Tonkin & J. Mahoney (2007). Assessing the effectiveness of environmental flows on fish recruitment in Barmah-Millea Forest.

Koehn, J (1997). Habitats and movements of freshwater fish in the Murray-Darling Basin. In: Banens, R.J & R. Lehane, eds. 1995 Riverine Environment Research Forum. Page(s) 27-33. Canberra: Murray-Darling Basin Commission.

Koehn, J. (2005). Threats to Murray Cod. In: Lintermans, M. & B. Phillips, eds. Management of the Murray Cod in the Murray Darling Basin. Canberra: Murray Darling Basin Commission.

Koehn, J., S. Nicol & P. Fairbrother (2000). Pattern and distribution of large woody debris in the Murray River (Yarrawonga - Tocumwal). Heidelberg: Department of Natural Resources and Environment.

Koehn, J.D. (2006). The ecology and conservation management of Murray cod Maccullochella peelii peelii. PhD thesis. Ph.D. Thesis. Australia: University of Melbourne.

Koehn, J.D. & S.J. Nicol (2014). Comparative habitat use by large riverine fishes. Marine and Freshwater Research. 65:164-74.

Lintermans, M., S. Rowland, J. Koehn, G. Butler, B. Simpson & I. Wooden (2005). The status, threats and management of freshwater cod species Maccullochella spp. in Australia. Pp. 15-29. In: Lintermans, M. and Phillips, B. (eds.). Management of Murray cod in the Murray-Darling Basin: Statement, recommendations and supporting papers. Proceedings of a workshop held in Canberra, ACT3-4 June 2004. Canberra: Murray-Darling Basin Commission and Cooperative Research Centre for Freshwater Ecology.

McDowall, R.M. ed (1996). Freshwater Fishes of South-Eastern Australia rev. edn. Chatswood, NSW: Reed Books.

Ministerial Council on Forestry, Fisheries and Aquaculture (MCFFA) (1999). National Policy for the Translocation of Live Aquatic Organisms. Canberra: Bureau of Rural Sciences.

Murray-Darling Basin Commission (MDBC) (2004). Native Fish Strategy for the Murray-Darling Basin 2003-2013. Canberra, Murray-Darling Basin Commission, ed. Native Fish Strategy for the Murray-Darling Basin 2003-2013. [Online]. www.mdbc.gov.au.

National Murray Cod Recovery Team (2009). Draft National Recovery Plan for the Murray Cod Maccullochella peelii peelii. Melbourne: Department of Sustainability and Environment.

National Murray Cod Recovery Team (2010). National Recovery Plan for the Murray Cod Maccullochella peelii peelii. [Online]. Department of Sustainability and Environment, Melbourne Victoria. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/publications/recovery/murray-cod.html.

National Murray Cod Recovery Team (2010a). Background and Implementation Information for the National Recovery Plan for the Murray Cod Maccullochella peelii peelii. [Online]. Department of Sustainability and Environment, Melbourne Victoria. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/resource/national-recovery-plan-murray-cod-maccullochella-peelii-peelii.

Native Fish Australia Incorporated (2004). Murray Cod. [Online]. Available from: http://www.nativefish.asn.au/cod.html.

Nicol, S., C. Todd, J. Koehn & J. Lieschke (2005). How can recreational angling regulations help meet the multiple objectives of Murray cod populations. In: Lintermans, M. and Phillips, B. (eds.). In: Management of Murray Cod in the Murray-Darling Basin: Statement, recommendations and supporting papers. Proceedings of a workshop held in Canberra, 3-4 June 2004. Page(s) 98-106.

Park, T., J. Murphy & D. Reid (2005). The recreational fishery for Murray cod in the Murray-Darling Basin - Results from the National Recreational and Indigenous Fishing Survey. In: Lintermans, M. and Phillips, B. (eds). In: Management of Murray Cod in the Murray-Darling Basin: Statement, recommendations and supporting papers. Proceedings of a workshop held in Canberra, 3-4 June 2004. Page(s) 93-97.

Rowland, S.J. (1998). Aspects of the reproductive biology of Murray cod, Maccullochella peelii peelii. In: Proceedings of the Linnean Society of New South Wales. 120:147-162.

Ryan, T., R. Lennie, J. Lyon & T. O'Brien (2003). Thermal rehabilitation of the southern Murray-Darling Basin. Department of Sustainability and Environment, eds. Final report to Agriculture, Forestry, Fisheries Australia. MD 2001 FishRehab program.

Sherman, B., C.R. Todd, J.D. Koehn & T. Ryan (2007). Modelling the impact of cold water pollution and its potential mitigation on Murray cod populations downstream of Hume Dam, Australia. Rivers Research and Applications. 23:377-389.

The Living Murray (2007). The Living Murray fact sheet. [Online]. Available from: http://www.thelivingmurray.mdbc.gov.au/publications.html#pub_general.

Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC) (2003i). Commonwealth Listing Advice on Maccullochella peelii peelii (Murray Cod, Cod, Goodoo). [Online]. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/species/m-peelii-peelii.html.

Todd, C.R., T. Ryan, S.J. Nicol & A.R. Bearlin (2005). The impact of cold water releases on the critical period of post-spawning survival and its implications for Murray cod, Maccullochella peelii peelii: A case study of the Mitta Mitta River, in south-eastern Australia. River Research and Applications. 21:1035-1052.

Whitley, G.P (1980). Handbook of Australian Fishes. North Sydney: Jack Pollard Publishing Pty Ltd.

Ye, Q, G. K. Jones, B. E. Pierce (2000). Murray Cod (Maccullochella peelii peelii). Fishery Assessment Report to PIRSA for the Inland Waters Fishery Management Committee. South Australian Fisheries Assessment Series. 2000/17. South Australia: South Australian Fisheries Assessment.

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This database is designed to provide statutory, biological and ecological information on species and ecological communities, migratory species, marine species, and species and species products subject to international trade and commercial use protected under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act). It has been compiled from a range of sources including listing advice, recovery plans, published literature and individual experts. While reasonable efforts have been made to ensure the accuracy of the information, no guarantee is given, nor responsibility taken, by the Commonwealth for its accuracy, currency or completeness. The Commonwealth does not accept any responsibility for any loss or damage that may be occasioned directly or indirectly through the use of, or reliance on, the information contained in this database. The information contained in this database does not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth. This database is not intended to be a complete source of information on the matters it deals with. Individuals and organisations should consider all the available information, including that available from other sources, in deciding whether there is a need to make a referral or apply for a permit or exemption under the EPBC Act.

Citation: Department of the Environment (2014). Maccullochella peelii in Species Profile and Threats Database, Department of the Environment, Canberra. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/sprat. Accessed Tue, 23 Sep 2014 16:43:59 +1000.