Murray Cod Group Communiqué:


A group of scientists and river workers strongly refuted recent media
comments attacking the scientific credibility of management initiatives in
the Murray-Darling Basin, particularly the results of fish surveys (The
Australian, 15/5/2004).

The Murray Cod Group was formed after a recent specialist workshop on Murray
Cod hosted by the Murray-Darling Basin Commission (MDBC), which was attended by
over 50 fish scientists, angling representatives and river managers. The
group agreed that the media attacks had been biased and misleading and they
depended on highly selective interpretations. The group's spokesman, Dr John
Harris, said that if the public were to be misled, native fish rehabilitation and improvements in river health could be seriously compromised.

Dr John Harris is the convener of the Murray Cod Group.  To contact Dr.
Harris about the Murray Cod Group Communiqué, call 0409 952 528. International +61 409 952 528.

The Murray Cod Workshop, while noting recent population improvements in some
areas, possibly driven by hatchery stocking, agreed there has been a
significant decline in the species' abundance since European settlement,
justifying its listing by the Commonwealth as 'Vulnerable'. Research results
from studies including a survey of NSW rivers, analyses of commercial
fisheries data, a study of the Campaspe River, and pilot studies in the
Sustainable Rivers Audit all supported the conclusions and justify concerns
for this iconic species of Australian rivers.

Research results for Murray cod have been overwhelmingly supported by data
on the declines of other native fish. The Native Fish Strategy, recently
released by the MDBC to guide rehabilitation of native fish in the Basin,
reported that native fish populations are estimated to be at about 10
percent of their levels before European settlement and eight of the 35
species are nationally listed as 'threatened', with at least two being
'critically endangered'. Under state legislation, 16 MDB species are listed
as threatened. Many species have become locally extinct in large areas of
the Basin, including once-abundant fish such as freshwater catfish and
silver perch. Golden perch no longer breed upstream of most dams. In the
South Australian Murray, small species including olive perchlet and
purple-spotted gudgeon have disappeared. In the Campaspe River, only three
of the 15 to 18 species predicted to have once lived and bred in the river
now have self-sustaining populations. Research surveys have repeatedly shown
that alien species like carp, redfin perch, eastern gambusia and goldfish
dominate the Basin's fish community.

Dr Harris said that the Murray Cod Group was concerned to ensure that media
reports reflect the overwhelming scientific opinion that native fish are in
serious decline and management initiatives are justified and urgently