Giving our native fish a helping hand before winter

Media release | 31 May 2018

Important native fish in the Peel River near Tamworth, including the iconic Murray cod and the threatened freshwater catfish, will enjoy a flush of fresh food washed in from the proposed release of water for the environment from Chaffey Dam in early June.

The NSW Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) and the Commonwealth Environmental Water Office have worked with specialists from the Department of Primary Industries (Fisheries) to design a flow that will improve food supply and provide much needed nourishment and movement opportunities for native fish coming into winter.

“Regulation of the Peel River has meant we aren’t seeing as many of the small fresh flows which would have occurred naturally,” said Jody Swirepik, the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder.

“The release will provide a low flow important for supporting populations of native fish,” Ms Swirepik said.

The release will occur over 14 days and will see the flow of the Peel River below Chaffey Dam peak at 750 ML/day for two days.

OEH Senior Wetlands and Rivers Conservation Officer Paul Keyte said a pulse of water for the environment is needed to wash organic matter off the low in-channel bars into the river system.

“Once these nutrients get into the channel it will be converted to food,” said Mr Keyte.

“Coming into winter, this food drop will improve the health and condition of native fish, which we know increases their success for breeding in spring. The flow will also allow fish to move throughout the river system and find more suitable homes, including deeper pools, logs and aquatic vegetation.”

The final volume of 3,870 ML for the delivery was determined with advice from the community, ecologists and fish experts as the minimum needed to ensure these important environmental outcomes are met.

Rachel Connell, Executive Director Water, NSW Department of Industry said these types of environmental flows provide benefits that improve riverine health, habitat, replenish residual pools and support native fish communities along the river system.