Eel-tailed catfish translocation – a seven-year journey

Eel-tailed catfish being released at Deniliquin by John Conallin

Eel-tailed catfish (Tandanus tandanus) were once common in the rivers and streams of the Edward (Kolety) – Wakool system. Numbers have declined significantly over the past 40-50 years due to the introduction of Carp and Redfin, loss of habitat, barriers to fish passage and changes to natural flow regimes to the point where they are now considered locally extinct.

The artificial Barham Lakes system was known to have a local remnant population. In 2016 when this site was at risk of being drained, the local community contacted Murray LLS to help save and relocate this iconic local native fish.

After much discussion with NSW DPI Fisheries and support of the Western Murray Land Improvement Group, DNA testing was done on a sample of these fish to confirm they were of local provenance. In 2018, after several years of work, thirty fish were collected by NSW DPI Fisheries and local community members and translocated to the Deniliquin lagoons. Within 12 months, the translocated fish were seen establishing nests, and shortly afterwards, sampling revealed that the fish had successfully bred the lagoons.

In 2020 ongoing sampling indicated that the breeding had been so successful in Deniliquin that opportunities to relocate some of these fish into other lakes and wetlands within our region were investigated. Moulamein, Finley and Jerilderie Lakes were all accessed for suitability and pre-translocation sampling was conducted at the sites. This sampling found Catfish in both Moulamein and Jerilderie lakes. In 2021, 40 Eel-tailed catfish were collected from the Deni Lagoons and placed in Finley Lake.

Annual sampling has been done at these sites since then, and in April 2023, a young-of-year juvenile catfish was caught at Finley Lake. This indicates that successful recruitment of translocated catfish is occurring and that they have established nests and are breeding successfully.

With Eel-tailed catfish now calling five lakes in the district home, Murray LLS was provided funding from the MDBA’s Native Fish Recovery Strategy through the Mid-Murray Floodplain Recovery Reach Program to improve habitat for the Catfish, and other threatened native fish in Moulamein and Barham lakes.

On the back of these projects, a joint initiative by the Edward Wakool Angling Association, NSW DPI Fisheries and the Joint Indigenous Group (JIG) has recently seen the first release of Eel-tailed catfish into the Edward (Kolety) River. The purchase of these fish has been funded through the Edward Kolety Fishing Challenge and the Recreational Fishing Trust.

The success of these programs is a result of the long-term commitment of a range of key stakeholders, including The Edward-Wakool Angling Association, Deniliquin Kolety Lagoons Landcare Group, Western Murray Land Improvement Group, Barham Angling Club, CluBarham, NSW DPI Fisheries. Edward River Council and Murray LLS.

With so many organisations working together, the future of the Eel-tailed catfish in our region is looking bright.

Catfish release into the Edward (Kolety) River

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