A Mary River cod is surveyed.
A Mary River cod is surveyed.

Grant needed to bolster cod recovery program in region

HAVING recently released a valuable stock of bass into the Bremer River and Warrill Creek catchments, the next project being planned is a regional first.

Somerset and Wivenhoe Fish Stocking Association (SWFSA) members are seeking funds from the Ipswich City Council to share in an important cod recovery program using facial recognition technology.

A $2500 grant would provide a major boost for the regional fishery, given only 300 cod had been released into the Bremer and Warrill waterways over the past 10 years.

“The plan is to stock 2000 Mary River cod into the Bremer-Warrill catchment every year to return that apex predator,’’ SWFSA president Garry Fitzgerald said.

“We’re hopeful of engaging with local council to assist in that.

“We’ve got the permit to release that number but we just don’t have any funding for it right now.’’

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The active stocking group has also focused on a cod recovery plan for the Upper Stanley and Upper Brisbane rivers, assisted by a $15,000 Somerset Regional Council grant.

Nearly 6000 Mary River cod were released last December.

“Any endangered species or recovery programs are supposed to be driven by the federal government but the feds have never done anything about the Brisbane River cod,’’ he said.

“So we picked the ball up. We said we need to do something on the Upper Brisbane. We’ve got about 150km of river up there with no apex predator in there since their extinction in 1938-1940.

“We ran a program, accepted by the Queensland Government and Federal Government, and it was the first program like this driven by a community group.’’

The current target species is Mary River cod which have better survival prospects.

Fitzgerald hopes Ipswich City Council supports the latest efforts as part of a concerted cod recovery program.

In past years, Fitzgerald said the Mary River in the Wide Bay area had been the main Queensland priority for cod recovery projects.

Steve Staszewski releases Mary River cod fingerlings in the upper Brisbane River.
Steve Staszewski releases Mary River cod fingerlings in the upper Brisbane River.

He said a $2500 grant would provide the maximum stocking rates allowed for the Bremer-Warrill system.

Fitzgerald said farming and mining practices, flood events and other factors had caused a massive decline in Brisbane River cod numbers over many decades.

Brisbane River cod are presumed extinct, putting more importance on restocking Mary River cod.

The SWFSA president said injecting fingerlings into south east Queensland waterways was crucial to the species survival.

Apart from providing additional recreational fishing options, stocking prized cod would boost the natural environment and help control pest species.

Fitzgerald said the SWFSA members would play a major role in monitoring how the Mary River cod stocks survive and thrive.

Twelve to 18 months after putting the 30-50mm fish into the Bremer and Warrill systems, stocking officials would target cod to be examined, recorded and released using advanced technology.

“We’re not just putting the fish in and that’s it, they are on their own,’’ he said.

“Part of this plan is we’re going to actively monitor our release sites . . . and the days of tagging fish are kind of redundant in cod.’’

He said camera technology honed in on the fish’s spots could determine age and growth rates.

“Those blotches or those spots on cod are like a fingerprint,’’ he said.

“With a photograph from a small fish to a large fish, with facial recognition software, we can recognise an individual fish.

A Mary River cod is surveyed.
A Mary River cod is surveyed.

“What we’ll do is start actively monitoring them (after earlier releasing the fish 30-50mm long) . . . but we’ll also at the same time be measuring the success of recreational fishing against the species.

“We will find out how susceptible they are to rec fishing pressure.’’

Fitzgerald welcomed other members of the community keen to be involved in the cod recovery program.

Visit the group’s site at: https://www.facebook.com/SomersetWivenhoeFishStocking/