A $4.4 million expansion is set to transform the Narrandera Fisheries into the premier regional fish research centre in the southern basin, and play a major role in a potential native “fish armageddon” this summer.
Minister for Agriculture Adam Marshall said the NSW Government’s flagship hatchery and research facility at Narrandera would be front and centre of a bold and unprecedented plan to tackle a massive season for fish kills.
“I can’t sugar coat it – it will be the equivalent of a fish armageddon in NSW this summer,” Mr Marshall said. “This is based on record low water levels through the systems right across the state, with virtually no rain and inflows, and the Bureau of Meteorology predicting above average temperatures this summer.
“All told that is the perfect recipe for mass fish kills that will dwarf the fish kill events we saw last summer.”
The construction of a new hatchery, refurbishment of the old hatchery and additional ponds at Narrandera is part of an overall $10 million plan involving the state government embarking on the largest ever fish rescue and recovery operation for native fish species in NSW river systems.
Mr Marshall said the NSW Government would work with recreational fishing clubs and private hatcheries for extra, dedicated teams rescuing fish species identified at risk of fish kills. The Murray Cod, Trout Cod and Golden Perch will be brought to hatcheries at Narrandera and around
the state for breeding over the next few years. Artificial aeration, oxygenation and chemical treatments to support water quality and fish survival will be implemented across river systems.
“Once conditions return to normal in those river systems, we will embark on the largest ever native fish restocking program this state has ever seen,” Mr Marshall said. “As part of that $10 million program, $4.4 million will be spent at Narrandera to expand the capacity to store and breed additional fish, and to broaden the world leading research taking place here already.
“While we can’t do any-thing to create extra water and control rain events to replenish storage dams, what we can do is take unprecedented action to avoid an ecological disaster for our native fish species.
“We will use hatcheries like this to create a modern day Noah’s Ark for native fish species in NSW – we will rescue and save thousands of native fish across the state over the coming weeks and months, replacing them with millions of native fish once the river systems return to normal.”
Mr Marshall said taking no action was not an option. He said river systems would be replenished with fish genetically imprinted to those systems.
Member for Cootamundra Steph Cooke said the investment would cement the Narrandera centre’s reputation as the state’s leading facility for fresh water fisheries.
“The wonderful staff here at Narrandera Fisheries Centre are already doing so much in terms of research and native fish breeding,” Ms Cooke said. “The facility however is the victim of its own success and has now reached capacity for the housing of small native fish, and is approaching capacity for large native fish.
“This significant investment will take the operations here to a whole new level and will allow staff to house even more rescued fish and undertake one of the State’s largest ever breeding programs.”
Research will be extended to include small bodied native fish species facing an uncertain future. Construction of the new hatchery is expected to
start in the New Year with job numbers at the centre to be boosted.
Narrandera Fisheries Centre manager Martin Asmus said the funding would facilitate the rebirth of the Basin’s rivers.
“It’s an exciting day for the staff at Narrandera as the events over the last 12 months have been quite devastating across Fisheries,” Mr Asmus said.
He said breeding programs would be undertaken for smaller wetland species such as the Southern pygmy perch and Purple-spotted gudgeon.
Mr Asmus said five Recreational Fishing Trust-funded ponds at the centre would be filled in the next few weeks. He said production output could potentially be doubled from one million fish a year. Mr Asmus said fish relocation was difficult with no two rescues the same.
“Below and above Weir 32 on the Lower Darling is a hot spot for fish kills, and further north on the Lachlan,” he said.
Adam Marshall said the positive around mass fish kills this summer would be the reduction in carp and introduced fish species numbers.
“In some parts of our river system, the fish kills will do the rivers a great service in a lot of those carp will perish or have their populations significantly reduced,” he said.
Narrandera Shire Council mayor Neville Kschenka said the hatchery project was a fantastic injection and investment in a long running facility.
Cr Kschenka said it would boost employment locally.
“This supports not just Narrandera but the whole Murray Darling Basin and beyond,” he said. “It would be great to see the other facilities like the administration area upgraded and have the John Lake Centre open on the weekend so the wider community can see the great work undertaken here.”