A massive expansion is underway at the DPI’s Narrandera Fisheries Centre courtesy of a multi-million Government investment in native fish breeding.
The world class centre is Australia’s largest native fish breeding and research facility producing hundreds of thousands of fingerlings annually to stock dams and waterways in the Murray-Darling Basin.
The number is set to rise with a second hatchery development underway.
Manager of the native fish stocking program Matt McLellan said the $5 million development announced in 2019 as part of the drought recovery program was very exciting.
“We produce 500,000 Murray Cod a year and we will hopefully increase that number,” he said.
“We hope to stock more than 500,000, fingers crossed. We will retain our existing hatchery and will be concentrating more on threatened species.”
Mr McLellan said the focus would be on Trout Cod, Silver Perch, Southern Pygmy perch, Olive Perchlet and Macquarie Perch.”
Right now the centre is a hive of activity in preparation for the native fish breeding season with trout cod the season’s starters.
This involves “stripping” eggs from females to be fertilised by milt collected from the males.
Mr McLellan said trout cod fingerlings would be released into waters across southern NSW early next month.
The second hatchery will be developed in 2022-2023 for the next breeding season in September next year. The hoped-for completion date is April 2022.
Replenishing fish stocks in drought-affected areas of NSW is part of Fisheries’ drought recovery role.
“Eighty per cent of our stock goes to lakes and dams across the state including but not confined to Blowering and Copeton and 20 per cent to rivers and lakes to aid in drought recovery,” Mr McLellan said.
The centre has a long-standing relationship with Charles Sturt University and offers a week’s placement for animal science and veterinary science students.
Next door to the hatchery construction site is the John Lake Centre(JLC) and aquarium, a prime Narrandera tourist attraction.
The centre re-opened on Monday. JLC education officer Trish Evans said Covid 19 restrictions had posed challenges.
She said the theatrette which holds 65 people could now only accommodate 12 due to social distancing rules.
The centre offers five tours a day five days a week. Bookings and proof of vaccination are now needed to enter the facility.
“We are fully booked but we are not at full capacity,” Mrs Evans said.
The aquarium continues its popularity rating with visitors while a touch tank featuring turtles is a favourite with youngsters.
The star attraction though is 24-year-old Murray Cod Agrow who tips the scales at 18kg and measures just over one metre.
As Agrow was born in captivity he cannot be released. Agrow has everything on tap and a big surprise in store.
The hatchery development provides for improvements to the JLC with Agrow among the beneficiaries. Mrs Evans said he will be moved to a much larger tank.
Another bonus is an extensive viewing platform to run from the John Lake Centre past the new hatchery, which Mr McLellan said would provide“ an enhanced visitor experience”.
This article appeared in the Narrandera Argus, 18 November 2021.