Water for the environment to support native fish in the Peel River

With El NiƱo conditions declared, water for the environment is being used to support native fish in the Peel River with ongoing flows throughout spring and summer.

Large grey fish

The NSW Department of Planning and Environment (DPE) (as of 1 January 2024 the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water), in partnership with the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder (CEWH), may deliver up to 4,500 megalitres in the Peel River as conditions require, potentially through to February 2024.

NSW Wetlands Rivers and Conservation Officer Paul Keyte said 3 consecutive wet years had boosted food sources in the river, creating optimal conditions for native fish.

Mr Keyte said maintaining a minimum flow level is now vital to support breeding cycles.

"Threatened species such as Murray cod, freshwater catfish, and the northern river blackfish breed when water temperatures rise.

"We know that Murray cod start to breed from mid-September, nesting and laying eggs. If river flows reduce, nests will become exposed, and this reduces the chance of successful breeding.

"Keeping the river flow at around 100 megalitres a day will support nests and provide an opportunity for juveniles to move between habitat to seek food and shelter," Mr Keyte said.

Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder, Dr Simon Banks said the joint watering action was an ideal opportunity to gain maximum benefit from water for the environment.

"Working with the NSW environment department and other partners gives us a good opportunity to combine resources, evidence and knowledge to deliver for the environment.

"Our science program gives us a comprehensive picture of the best conditions for native fish to breed and move so the delivery is timed and managed to produce the best results.

"As part of this science program a native fish monitoring project has been funded with additional support from the NSW department, helping to improve our knowledge about native fish communities in the Peel River and how they respond to flows.

"The movement of tagged Murray cod, golden perch, freshwater catfish and northern river blackfish is monitored by listening stations in the Peel River to give us information on where, when and how far individual fish travel in response to flows.

"Water for the environment will also benefit other aquatic animals in the river system.

"The proposed release strategy will support platypus food and habitat, with flows covering their primary feeding areas," he said.

Local recreational fisher and river user Anne Michie welcomed the watering action.

"The environmental water flowing down the Peel will provide many benefits to the local river," Ms Michie said.

"The water will continue to provide food and habitat to many critters that call the Peel home, including cod, yellow belly, and the reclusive platypus.

"It's fantastic to be able to provide positive results for nature and the river," Ms Michie said.