Environment groups today congratulated the Victorian Government for throwing a lifeline to one of Australia’s most threatened freshwater fish.
The government today announced it would provide water for three of the four lakes in northern Victoria where only four populations of the tiny Murray Hardyhead continue to survive.
“This little fish is on the brink,” Environment Victoria’s Healthy Rivers Campaigner Juliet Le Feuvre said.
“Without help they will all be lost forever as their lake habitats dry out this summer. This would make the Murray Hardyhead the first Australian freshwater fish to become extinct since white settlement. The government’s action is throwing it a lifeline.”
Ms Le Feuvre said years of dry conditions were putting huge pressure on irrigation farmers and their families and on the health of the Murray.
“The Murray Hardyhead is one of the toughest fish in the river and can live in highly saline wetlands. They have survived droughts over thousands of years, but the flows this year are proving too low even for them.”
ACF Healthy Rivers Campaigner Dr Arlene Buchan said the promised water was part of the environment’s legal entitlement.
“In the past the river could bounce back from drought because it had wetland refuges right along the river. We’ve lost 90% of these wetlands and those that remain are under extreme stress. There is no more critical time for using the environment’s small water allocation than now,” Dr Buchan said.
Ten of the 22 native fish species that are known or suspected to have previously existed in the Lower Murray-Darling catchment are either locally extinct or in danger of becoming extinct.
“It’s essential we provide water to keep some really important refuges alive, otherwise we will begin to lose our unique fish species forever”, Dr Buchan said.