Pygmy perch living large in Grafton

A tiny, endangered native fish is getting a helping hand at NSW Department of Primary Industries Grafton Fisheries Research Institute to ensure the future survival of the species in the wild.

Senior Fisheries Technician Mitch Turner said NSW DPI staff have successful hatched Oxleyan Pygmy Perch at the Institute for the first time.

“This is a significant achievement and will go a long way towards bolstering the very limited numbers of these fish in the wild,” he said.

“In December 2019, approximately 200 Oxleyan pygmy perch brood fish were rescued from the North Coast region between Wooli and Ballina and relocated to the Grafton Institute.

“The DPI Fisheries team has worked hard to keep them healthy and safe, and we have now seen a number of hatchings which is a first for this species.”

Oxleyan Pygmy Perch are a small freshwater fish endemic to the coastal region of eastern Australia, from northern NSW to south-eastern Queensland.

They have disappeared altogether from large sections of their original range and remaining populations are small and fragmented as they are threatened by coastal development, habitat degradation, water pollution, and competition from introduced species.

“The team at Grafton have successfully reared larvae to the juvenile stage, so these fish are now six-eight weeks old but still just 10mm in length,” Mr Turner said.

“They can grow to about 60mm in length but are more likely to reach just 35mm fully grown.

“DPI Fisheries has developed a recovery plan for this species and work is underway on a range of actions, but the first step is obviously to be able to successfully breed and rear them in captivity.

“These little juveniles may be tiny, but their presence here at Grafton is huge step on the road to recovery for this native species.”

It is illegal to catch and keep, buy, sell, possess or harm Oxleyan Pygmy Perch (or any other threatened species in NSW) without a specific permit, licence or other appropriate approval, and significant penalties apply.

Images available on request.

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