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Feisty Trout Cod On The Road To Recovery

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One of NSW’s most endangered fish, the trout cod, has a good chance of making a comeback thanks to a draft recovery plan released by the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI).

DPI is calling on the public to help save the spirited freshwater fish by commenting on the draft recovery plan for the species.

Bill Talbot, DPI’s Principal Manager Threatened Species, said trout cod were once abundant throughout the southern Murray-Darling system and Macquarie River, but now only a single natural population remains in one small part of the Lower Murray.

“Scientists are not sure why there are so few trout cod, although the fish has been scarce since it was first confirmed as being a separate species to Murray cod in the 1970s. It could be overfishing, loss of habitat or introduced fish species that have put the trout cod's future under threat,” said Mr Talbot.

“The trout cod is now listed as an endangered species under NSW, ACT and Commonwealth laws. There are heavy penalties for harming, possessing, buying or selling them, and for harming their habitat without appropriate authority.

“Trout cod are protected from fishing all year round in NSW, Victoria and the ACT. They must be returned to the water if accidentally caught.

“The trout cod looks very much like the Murray cod and both fish can be found in the same waterways. The trout cod is generally smaller in size and can be distinguished from Murray cod by its blue-grey colouration around the head, underslung lower jaw and dark horizontal stripe across the eye.”

A DPI breeding program has been successful in reintroducing trout cod back into a number of rivers in NSW. About one million trout cod fingerlings have been bred and released into the wild since 1986.

Mr Talbot said recovery plans outline the steps needed to return threatened species, populations or ecological communities to the point where they can survive in the wild.

"Among other things, recovery plans chart the actions that government departments and other organisations have agreed upon to help the recovery of the species into the future,” said Mr Talbot.

"They also address threats to species - such as disease, habitat loss, competition and predation by feral fish - and propose techniques to overcome these threats."

Some of the recovery plan’s main aims are to: establish and protect self-sustaining populations of trout cod at selected locations where the trout cod was once abundant; ensure the security of the last remaining natural NSW population of trout cod in the Murray River below Yarrawonga Weir and controlling the impacts of fishing and protecting trout cod habitat and restoring it where necessary throughout the former range of the species.

The draft recovery plan is available on the NSW Department of Primary Industries website and at local DPI Fisheries offices.

The deadline for submissions on the draft trout cod recovery plan is 29 July 2005.

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