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Balancing conservation and recreational fishery objectives for a threatened fish species, the Murray cod, Maccullochella peelii


Correspondence: Dr John Koehn, Department of Sustainability and Environment, Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research, 123 Brown Street, Heidelberg, Vic. 3084, Australia (e-mail:


Murray cod Maccullochella peelii (Mitchell) is a large, iconic Australian fish species targeted by anglers but also listed as nationally threatened. A consultative process that included conservation and fishery interests helped to develop a population model for this species and agree on management scenarios to be tested. The modelled scenarios illustrated that threats to populations (risk of decline) can be substantially reduced and catch rates increased through harvest slot length limits (HSLL) rather than minimum legal limits (MLL). A 600- to 1000-mm HSLL provided lower risk of decline and greater catch rates than the existing 500-mm MLL, but better results were achieved with a 400- to 600-mm HSLL. Importantly, a range of other impacts (fish kills, stocking, thermal impacts, larval mortalities, habitat changes) were recognised and incorporated. This study provides an example of the utility of a population model to improve management decision-making for both conservation and fishery objectives.