Current threatened species projects

The NSW Department of Primary Industries is involved in numerous research, conservation management and habitat restoration projects which contribute to the well being of threatened species.

Here you will find some information on some of the programs that the Department is running or is contributing to. Other organisations such as local councils, local land services, universities, fishing groups, landholders and conservation groups are also critical to the delivery of some of these programs.

If you are involved in threatened species management or research, or have an idea of a local project that you would like to tell the Department about, we would like to hear from you! Please send us an email to fisheries.threatenedspecies@dpi.nsw.gov.au

Threatened fish rescued across NSW in 2019-20

In the lead up to the 2019/20 summer, DPI Fisheries was actively preparing to save some of Australia’s most threatened species of fish.

Multiple fish rescues and relocations have been a major part of the DPI Fisheries response to unprecedented drought, bushfires and floods, with more than 5,000 native freshwater fish collected from all corners of the state since operations began – including over 2000 fish that are threatened species.

DPI Staff setting nets for Olive Perchlet Insurance Population

Rescues have taken place in the Gwydir, Border Rivers, Macquarie, Murrumbidgee, Lachlan, and Upper Murray catchments in the Murray-Darling Basin, and in the Clarence and Richmond River catchments on the coast

Threatened species within these catchments have been particularly vulnerable to ongoing dry conditions, further exacerbated by the impacts of bushfires and flooding.

Insurance populations for several species have been collected and held at NSW DPI hatcheries across the state. Those kept in captivity will help provide the genetic diversity required to establish a captive breeding program that will act as an insurance policy for when conditions improve and their offspring can be released back into the wild.

NSW DPI hatcheries in Port Stephens, Grafton, and Narrandera, as well as facilities at Taronga Western Plains Zoo, have been mobilised as part of the threatened species rescue program, with a combination of tanks and open ponds set up specifically to house these fish.

Pond at Narrandera

Macquarie perch

One of the few remaining populations of the endangered Macquarie Perch in NSW was hit hard after an intense bushfire passed through Mannus Creek in the NSW upper Murray catchment. A small number of fish were taken to NSW DPI’s Narrandera Fisheries Centre where they are being cared for while the system recovers, or to be retained as broodstock for a captive breeding program.

Macquarie Perch rescued from Mannus Creek

Southern Pygmy Perch

Southern Pygmy Perch

Rescues of several hundred fish from two populations of Southern Pygmy Perch (Murray and Lachlan) will establish two separate insurance populations in NSW DPI hatcheries and a private hatchery in Victoria. Most were retained for the captive breeding program, but a small number were also relocated to secure pools in the same catchment.

You can watch a video of this rescue here:  

Southern Pygmy Perch in survey net

Southern Purple Spotted Gudgeon

Several rescue missions were required to collect just over a hundred Southern Purple Spotted Gudgeons, with many fish rescued just in time as smaller creeks dried out across the species’ range.  Populations in the Border Rivers, Gwydir and Macquarie River catchments were targeted for urgent rescues, with fish now being held in NSW DPI’s hatcheries at Narrandera and Grafton and at Taronga Western Plains Zoo at Dubbo.

A rescued Southern Purple Spotted Gudgeon

Eastern Freshwater Cod

An insurance population of Eastern Freshwater Cod was collected from the Nymboida-Mann catchment to underpin a potential breeding program at the NSW DPI Grafton Fisheries Centre.

Further surveys and potential rescues are currently being planned to bolster the captive breeding program to help ensure the long-term survival of the species following the devastating impacts of bushfires throughout its limited range.

A rescued Eastern Freshwater Cod

Olive Perchlet

More than 1600 of these small fish, also known as Agassizii’s Glassfish, were rescued from a number of drying waterways throughout the Murray-Darling Basin. These fish were taken to the NSW DPI hatchery at Grafton to set up a captive breeding insurance population for re-release once the drought breaks. A separate population of Olive Perchlet from the Macquarie River catchment was also collected and is being kept safe at NSW DPI’s Narrandera Fisheries Centre.

Olive Perchlets rescued

Oxleyan Pygmy Perch

Habitat for this coastal species in the Clarence River catchment was extensively burnt in November and December 2019 from fires that burnt through Bundjalung National Park and parts of Yuraygir National Park.

With their limited distribution, rarity and dependence on specific habitats, these fish are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of bushfire.

A population of this species was collected in December 2019. The fish were relocated to NSW DPI’s Grafton Fisheries Centre as an insurance population to help negate the impacts of further losses from the wild.

DPI Scientists surveying for Oxleyan Pygmy Perch

Stocky Galaxias

Following fires in Kosciuszko National Park, a rescue of the critically endangered Stocky Galaxias was successfully carried out ahead of a heavy rainfall event which could have resulted in a significant fish kill event. In partnership with experts on the species – Assoc. Prof Mark Lintermans and PhD candidate Hugh Allen, DPI Fisheries and National Parks and Wildlife Services led a rescue expedition to Tantangara Creek where this species is found. A small population is now being kept safe and could establish a captive breeding program for the species at NSW DPI’s Gaden Fisheries Centre.

Stocky Galaxias in aquarium tanks at Gaden Fisheries Centre

Scientists in the field searching for Stocky Galaxids

More information

The seahorse hotels are ferried across Sydney Harbour by the Indigenous Gamay Rangers. Photo J. Keating

After dramatic reductions in population numbers over the past decade, a collaborative project is underway in Sydney Harbour to reverse the decline of White’s Seahorse. Also known as the Sydney Seahorse, this iconic seahorse was recently listed as ‘Endangered’ in NSW, making it Australia’s only threatened seahorse species and the second worldwide.

In an effort to recover dwindling numbers, NSW Department of Primary Industries Fisheries (DPI) partnered with SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium, University of Technology Sydney (UTS) and Sydney’s Indigenous Gamay Sea Rangers and commenced a world-first conservation project.

DPI Fisheries and SEA LIFE Aquarium staff and Indigenous Gamay Rangers with the seahorse hotels. Photo SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium

Successfully collecting and breeding the seahorses marked the first stage of the project. In October 2019, breeding pairs, including pregnant males were collected from Clifton Gardens swimming net and taken to a custom-built breeding facility at SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium. Since then, dozens of juvenile White’s Seahorse have been successfully bred and these baby seahorses (fry) are thriving.

In March 2020, the second ‘habitat’ stage was launched when nine ‘Seahorse Hotels’ were installed on the seafloor at Clifton Gardens. These novel artificial habitats were constructed by the team with help from SEA LIFE Ocean Youth Team. Inspired by lost crab traps that were previously identified as providing ideal habitat for seahorses, the purpose-built ‘Seahorse Hotels’ have a major point of difference in that they are completely biodegradable. Designed to simulate natural seahorse habitats which have been lost, the hotels start as artificial habitats, but are rapidly encrusted by algae, sponges and coral once placed in the marine environment. Over time, the weight of this marine growth causes the artificial structure to collapse leaving a new natural habitat behind and perfect homes for seahorses.

2 adult Whites seahorses living on the seahorse hotels 4 months after deploymentOnce they reach 6 cm, the juveniles will be tagged and released onto their new five-star hotels as well as protective swimming nets in the Harbour. An important monitoring program will be implemented by the team to assess growth, survival and breeding to determine how Seahorse Hotels, as a conservation tool, can help the recovery of White’s Seahorse.

Visit the White’s Seahorse web page for more information on this species.

Watch a video on the White’s Seahorse Recovery Project DPI is working on in collaboration with SEALIFE Sydney Aquarium, University of Technology Sydney and the Indigenous Gamay Rangers (3.04 mins)

Watch the next instalment of the project – Five star ‘seahorse hotels’ installed in Sydney Harbour  (1:14 mins)

An exciting and much-needed initiative is underway on the NSW Southern Highlands to extend a helping hand to one of Australia’s most threatened aquatic species. South East Local Land Services and DPI Fisheries, with support from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program, have joined forces to work toward securing the future of a critically endangered native spiny crayfish.

The Fitzroy Falls Spiny Crayfish (Euastacus dharawalus) is a naturally rare species of freshwater spiny crayfish. It is only found within a 12km stretch of creek in the Southern Highlands, NSW. It is listed as critically endangered by the NSW Fisheries Scientific Committee and nationally under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).

Euastacus dharawalus (Fitzroy Falls Spiny Crayfish (Photo by Alex Pike)

The 'Totally Cray Cray' project is helping to improve the trajectory of the Fitzroy Falls Spiny Crayfish through a suite of actions including habitat improvement and pest removal.  An exciting research project is also being undertaken by the University of Wollongong in partnership with DPI Fisheries and Local Land Services, which will involve tracking animal movement, monitoring of their health and behaviour, and analysing predator prey interactions to inform management responses.

The decline of this species is likely attributed to the cumulative impacts of predation by carp and yabbies, trampling of burrows by livestock and the division of the population through the construction of the Fitzroy Falls Reservoir. The loss of cooling vegetation on the water’s edge has also made it very hard for the crayfish to get through stressful events like drought.

Support is now available to land managers with property adjacent to key habitat. Funding for important farm infrastructure such as riparian fencing to exclude stock from the waterways and the installation off-stream watering systems will in-turn provide much cleaner and accessible water quality for livestock, as well as protecting the creek from trampling. Planting some tough local species along the creekline will encourage bank stability, keep the aquatic food-web cycling and improve water quality to support the crays. This is a big opportunity to work with Local Land Services to be a key part of securing the future of this unique spiny cray.

DPI Fisheries researchers in actionA raft of other exciting activities are proposed that the broader community can get involved in to show their support for this rare and intriguing species - an icon of the Southern Highlands area. These include public artwork, school visits, public talks and information days to share knowledge with the local community.

For more information or to get involved, send an email to fisheries.threatenedspecies@dpi.nsw.gov.au

Macquarie Perch 'Reaching for Recovery' in the South East of NSW

‘Reaching for Recovery’ is a Local Land Services and NSW DPI Fisheries project, funded by the Australian Government's National Landcare Program up until 2023. Its focus is on South East NSW populations, working collaboratively towards a 5, 10 and 50 year vision to vastly improve Macquarie Perch populations and habitat.

Macquarie Perch (Photo Luke Pearce)

Recovery actions underway include: habitat restoration, undertaking ‘genetic rescue’ actions, monitoring and control of invasive fish, and building a strong framework for ongoing monitoring to support assisted increases in critically low populations. This project is a first step toward a long term vision. The continuation and growth of partnerships between community, government support agencies and researchers beyond the life of this project are vital to reaching the 50 year goal.

A safe haven for Macquarie Perch

Captured juvenile Macquarie Perch and DPI Researchers

DPI Research staff confirmed that Macquarie Perch in a waterway near Oberon are breeding. This has confirmed that our conservation stocking of over 19,000 captive bred fish have established a new breeding population of the species in NSW. Surveys also confirmed that Macquarie Perch adults stocked into the Bolong River are also persisting. This project has taken over 10 years of effort to achieve this significant result.

See Macquarie Perch for more information.

Successful introduction of Murray Hardyhead into NSW

The first reintroduction of a critically endangered fish into NSW has proven successful!

A critically endangered freshwater fish has made a big return to NSW’s Murray River waters for the first time in more than 10 years under a project to help save it from extinction. The Murray Hardyhead is a small fish (up to 9cm long) with an amazing ability to tolerate salinities higher than seawater. Considered extinct in NSW for more than a decade, this species was listed as critically endangered in 1999 and survived in just a handful of wetlands in northern Victoria and in the Riverland and Lower Lakes in South Australia.

A hand holding a murray hardyhead over a bucket

But in late 2018, a collaborative effort between numerous committed organisations and individuals, relocated over 830 Murray Hardyhead from South Australia’s Riverland to Little Frenchman's Creek, an environmentally-watered wetland in far western NSW.

One year on and the tiny fish are still thriving in their new home. Follow-up monitoring has revealed that over 3400 Murray Hardyhead of numerous different sizes are now inhabiting Little Frenchman’s Creek, confirming that multiple spawning and recruitment events have been supported by this productive wetland.


Releasing Murray Hardyhead into south-west NSW November 2018

The relocation is a joint project involving the NSW Department of Primary Industries Fisheries, Western Local Land Services, the Commonwealth Government, the SA Department of Environment and Water, Aquasave - Nature Glenelg Trust, the Murray Darling Wetlands Working Group, and the owners of the Wingillie Station in western NSW. Wingillie Station is owned by the Hazel L Henry Farmland Nature Refuges Trust, which has been working with the Murray Darling Wetlands Working Group and Commonwealth Environment Water Office for several years to improve the condition of the floodplain and wetland habitats across the station.

Check out a video of the translocation (4:18mins)

For more information about the project email fisheries.threatenedspecies@dpi.nsw.gov.au

A Murray Crayfish conservation stocking program commenced in 2017, with 200 Murray Crayfish being moved from an area where they are abundant to a site downstream in the Murray River which has suffered a significant decline in the local population.

Murray Crayfish are an iconic Australian species and are an essential part of the Murray Darling Basin ecosystem. They were once widespread throughout the Murray and Murrumbidgee catchments however have declined in range and distribution due to a range of environment factors, including a widespread hypoxic blackwater event which occurred during 2010 and 2011. As a result, Murray Crayfish are now listed as ‘vulnerable’ in NSW.

This is the first time a stocking program to boost the population of Murray Crayfish has been conducted in the Murray River in NSW. Another 200 Murray Crayfish will be released to the site next year along with continued monitoring to determine the success of the project.

The translocation project is a collaboration between DPI Fisheries in and Aquasave – Nature Glenelg Trust, supported by the NSW Recreational Fishing Trust and local fishing clubs.

See Murray Crayfish for more information.

May 2018

DPI is continuing its conservation stocking program for Silver Perch and Trout Cod in NSW, with fish produced at the Narrandera Fish Hatchery. Between 2016 and 2018 a total of 120,000 Silver Perch fingerlings were released into the Namoi River between Gunnedah and Narrabri. Between 2015 and 2017 over 46,000 Trout Cod were released into the Upper Macquarie River.

See Silver Perch and Trout Cod for more information.

Unfortunately the stocking program for Silver Perch and Trout Cod into rivers was suspended in 2019 due to severe drought conditions.

More information on this can be found at https://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/fishing/habitat/threats/nsw-native-fish-drought-response-2019-2020.