Flows for native fish in the Murray-Darling Basin: lessons and considerations for future management
Article first published online: 22 APR 2014
© 2014 The Authors. Ecological Management & Restoration published by Ecological Society of Australia and Wiley Publishing Asia Pty Ltd.
This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited and is not used for commercial purposes.
Ecological Management & Restoration
Special Issue: The Native Fish Strategy: Bringing native fish back. Ecological Society of Australia and Wiley have published this supplement with financial support from the Murray-Darling Basin Authority, Department of Environment and Primary Industries (Vic) and NSW Department of Primary Industries (Fisheries)
Volume 15, Issue Supplement s1, pages 40–50, March 2014
How to Cite
Koehn, J. D., King, A. J., Beesley, L., Copeland, C., Zampatti, B. P. and Mallen-Cooper, M. (2014), Flows for native fish in the Murray-Darling Basin: lessons and considerations for future management. Ecological Management & Restoration, 15: 40–50. doi: 10.1111/emr.12091
- Issue published online: 22 APR 2014
- Article first published online: 22 APR 2014
- environmental water;
- water management
Increased regulation and extraction of water from rivers has contributed to the decline of fishes, and the use of environmental water allocations (EWAs) is now a key rehabilitation measure. Major reform of water policy in the Murray-Darling Basin (MDB), Australia, has recently provided significant EWAs to improve ecological outcomes. Conflict over water buybacks, the value of the water and the need to maximise environmental benefits and minimise risks of unwanted outcomes has increased the expectation for science to underpin and justify such actions. Recent research has focussed attention on the need to understand fish–flow relationships. The Native Fish Strategy for the Murray-Darling Basin 2003–2013 (NFS), while not specifically targeted at water policy reform or water delivery, has provided fish ecology research and flow restoration experimentation and contributed considerable new scientific knowledge to support flow management. It has contributed to a substantial and positive change in environmental watering for fish, with native fish targets now regularly incorporated into watering objectives. This study documents changes to water management in the MDB, summarises current knowledge of flow-related fish ecology in the MDB, highlights the benefits and risks of some water management practises and provides recommendations for future management and research. A major recommendation is the need for a coordinated, cross-jurisdictional approach to flow restoration for native fish, ensuring that the best available science is being used in all watering allocations. We caution on the use of environmental works such as regulators to artificially inundate floodplains and suggest that such approaches should be viewed as large-scale experiments with the significant risks posed to fish needing to be recognised, adequately monitored and adaptively managed.