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Senator the Hon Robert Hill
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Minister for the Environment and Heritage
26 June 2001
Federal Environment Minister Robert Hill will be seeking departmental advice on whether current protection levels are adequate for Murray cod after an independent report raised concerns about the dramatic decline in numbers across the Murray-Darling Basin.
"The Murray cod is the largest freshwater fish in Australia and is regarded as an icon in the Murray-Darling Basin," Senator Hill said.
"The cod live up to 50 years and have been found to grow to 1.8 metres and to weigh 110 kg. As the fish predator at the top of the food chain in the Murray-Darling river system, it provides one of the best indicators of the health of the riverine system. The problem is that natural populations of the Murray cod have declined dramatically since European settlement and the long-term survival of the species is of concern."
In January this year, Senator Hill commissioned Professor Robert Kearney, Professor of Fisheries at the University of Canberra, to advise on the habitat and environmental needs of Murray cod, population estimates, major threats to its survival and impediments to ensuring sustainable use and management of cod.
His report found six main threats to cod: habitat degradation; pollution (including cold water pollution from deep dams); inappropriate river flow patterns; barriers to migration, such as dams; introduced species, such as carp; and various forms of fishing, including commercial, recreational and illegal fishing.
Prof Kearney also found that State governments use different approaches to monitoring fish populations and distribution, and concluded that the data is inadequate to properly manage the fishery.
He said the ecologically sustainable use of Murray cod could not be divorced from the overall water use and management of the Basin's ecosystems.
"While, in Prof Kearney's view Murray cod as a species does not appear to be in immediate danger, largely due to hatchery/aquaculture propagation, the integrity of wild cod populations, including their genetic diversity, and of the ecosystems that support them, are seriously threatened," Senator Hill said.
"Based on Professor Kearney's report findings I will seek advice on whether existing levels of protection are adequate."
Tuesday, June 26
Media Contact: Belinda Huppatz on 02 6277 7640 or 0419 258 364