ILWS - Charles Sturt University
ILWS - Charles Sturt University

Murray small-bodied threatened fish project. (2017-2018)


NSW Department of Primary Industries/Murray Local Land Services, $52,000


Dr Lee Baumgartner, Dr Luiz Silva, Dr Stacey Kopf, & Simone Mabon (Honours)

Research Theme(s)

Biodiversity Conservation


Southern Pygmy Perch and Flat Headed Galaxias are two threatened small bodied fish species with few known populations along the Murray River. Sampling done by Luke Pearce (NSW DPI Fisheries) for his Masters project (completed in 2015) identified a population of Pygmy Perch in Coppabella Creek in the Upper Murray catchment near Tumbarumba/Jingelic, NSW.

However a massive flooding event in 2010 caused disturbances to the creek with Pygmy Perch populations suffering severe decline since then.

For this project researchers re-sampled for Pygmy Perch at the 10 original sites in Coppabella Creek, plus at another five sites in the Coppabella Basin at the end of 2017. As well, habitat mapping was undertaken along the creek to correlate the presence/absence of Pygmy Perch with habitat features. One of the aims of the habitat mapping was to identify refuge pools critical to the Southern Pygmy Perch during drought. The sampling done along Coppabella Creek found that the population of Pygmy Perch, while persisting, is restricted to upstream sites.

In February 2018 researchers sampled for both Pygmy Perch and Flat Headed Galaxias at 12 sites along the Murray from downstream Yarrawonga to Tintaldra. Flat headed Galaxias is suspected to be locally extinct in the NSW portion of the Murray with the last record of its presence at two sites in wetlands near Corowa in 2010.

The main findings were:

  • The Southern Pigmy Perch population in the Coppabella-Jingellic Creek system is still present and is recovering from the population decline experienced during the 2010–12 floods.
  • From 2011–17, the population was limited to the upper four sites in the creek. Habitat mapping identified those sites as remaining locations where complex macrophyte communities are present.
  • No Southern Pigmy Perch or Flat-headed galaxias were captured in any of the Upper Murray creek sites or Murray wetland sites;
  • Native fish diversity and abundance in the majority of Murray wetlands sampled was very low.


Final report: Silva, L., Kopf, S., Mabon, S., Horta, A., Duffy, D., Ning, N. (2018)  Finding forgotten fishes, the search for two endangered species in the NSW Murray Catchment. ILWS Report 112

The final report presented a management plan for Southern Pigmy Perch recovery and conservation at Coppabella-Jingelic Creek, including pest species management and control, and the development of a physical barrier (dam) to deter carp and redfin from reaching and colonising the upper sites where Southern Pigmy Perch is present.


Luke Pearce has presented the report to Murray LLS and the management with a physical barrier has been well received. Funds are being sought to provide for the construction of the barrier.


Dr Luiz Silva email

CSU Albury-Wodonga campus

April 2019