Golden Perch (2020)

Macquaria ambigua

  • Jason Earl (South Australian Research and Development Institute)
  • Gavin Butler (New South Wales Department of Primary Industries)
  • Victorian Fisheries Authority (Victorian Fisheries Authority)
  • Steven Brooks (Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Queensland)
  • Jason Thiem (New South Wales Department of Primary Industries)

Date Published: June 2021

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Golden Perch is an inland species found throughout most of the Murray-Darling Basin, the Lake Eyre and Bulloo drainage systems, and the Dawson-Fitzroy River systems of southern QLD. While available evidence indicates some population structuring at both the drainage system and finer scales, differences in data availability and management arrangements among states and territories mean that this assessment is presented at the jurisdictional level. Golden Perch in QLD and NSW are classified undefined, in VIC as recovering, and in SA as sustainable.

Photo: Department of Primary Industries, New South Wales

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Stock Status Overview

Stock status determination
Jurisdiction Stock Stock status Indicators
New South Wales New South Wales Undefined

Historical fishery catch, fishery-independent surveys, recreational fishing surveys

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Stock Structure

Golden Perch occur throughout most of the Murray–Darling system, except at high altitudes, as well as in the Lake Eyre and Bulloo drainage systems of Queensland, New South Wales and South Australia, and the Dawson-Fitzroy river system in southern Queensland [Lintermans 2007]. Translocated fish also occur in numerous other waterways and impoundments throughout south-eastern Australia [Allen et al. 2002]. 

Golden Perch in the Murray-Darling Basin are genetically distinct from Golden Perch in the Lake Eyre, Bulloo and Fitzroy systems [Faulks et al. 2010a,b; Beheregaray et al. 2017]. Murray-Darling Golden Perch form a well-connected metapopulation with low-level basin-wide population structure, reflecting their ability to migrate and disperse long distances [Faulks et al. 2010b; Beheregaray et al. 2017; Attard et al. 2018; Zampatti et al. 2018a]. However, subtle genetic differences and regional differences in population structures driven by unique recruitment sources suggest sub-structuring across some regions. Examples include the Lower Lakes [Earl et al. 2015] and Paroo River [Attard et al. 2018], and potentially the physically disconnected and hydrologically impacted Victorian tributaries of the Murray River and some NSW tributaries of the Barwon-Darling (e.g. Lachlan River [Shams et al. 2020]). Sub-structuring is also evident in the Lake Eyre Basin [Faulks et al. 2010b]. Although genetic studies suggest the existence of several biological stocks, there are differences in management arrangements and available information in the various jurisdictions that access Golden Perch. 

To account for these differences, assessment of stock status is presented here at the jurisdictional level—Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia.

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Stock Status

New South Wales

An inland commercial fishery existed for Golden Perch in New South Wales (NSW) up until 2001, with records available from as early as 1883 until the fishery was closed. Minor bycatch of Golden Perch does occur through the Common Carp commercial fishery in NSW, although this fishery is specifically designed to minimise catch of non-target species [Cameron Westaway, DPI Fisheries, personal communication]. Analysis of the commercial fishery records, from 1947 to 1996, indicated that total annual catches peaked in 1954–55 at 310 tonnes (t), 293 t in 1975–76 and 173 t in 1993–94 [Reid et al. 1997]. Substantial fluctuations in annual harvest were apparent, with harvest ranging from 40.4 t in 1947–48 to the observed peak of 310 t in 1954–55 [Reid et al. 1997]. Variation in commercial harvest is attributed to the inter-relationship between effort, catchability and preceding recruitment events [Reid et al. 1997]. This can be attributed to the link between adult abundance as a lagged function of river inflows in the preceding 3+ years, with elevated summer flows associated with higher year-class-strength [Roberts et al. 2008]. Capture within any given month closely aligned with daily river flows [Reid et al. 1997], with passive capture methods (gillnets in still or slow flowing water or drum nets in flowing water) successfully exploiting the species’ pre-disposition to move large distances during periods of elevated river discharge [Koster et al. 2017; Thiem et al. 2020].

Concerns have been raised in the literature regarding population fragmentation and observed reductions in the abundance of Golden Perch, occurring as a result of river regulation and habitat modification [Cadwallader 1978]. Specifically, dams and weirs interrupt the migratory pathways of all size classes [Harris et al. 2017], alter the availability of lotic habitat [Mallen‐Cooper and Zampatti 2018], reduce the timing and volume of river flows [Walker and Thoms 1993] (required to complete life-cycle), cause direct mortality [Baumgartner et al. 2006] and exacerbate extreme climatic events which can lead to fish kills [Australian Academy of Science 2019]. These concerns prompted research into the development of hatchery techniques for artificial propagation and subsequent stocking of Golden Perch into NSW waters, supported by a growing interest from the recreational fishing sector [Lake 1967a; Lake 1967b; Rowland 1983; Rowland 1996]. An estimated 25 million Golden Perch have now been stocked in dams and rivers throughout Australia’s eastern states, with NSW contributing approximately 9 million fish [Hunt and Jones 2018]. Recent evidence suggests that stocking into impoundments is needed to support put-and-take fisheries as natural recruitment is limited, whereas stocking into rivers is providing variable support to existing populations as most are sustained by natural recruitment [Crook et al. 2015; Forbes et al. 2015a; Thiem et al. 2017; Zampatti et al. 2019], with the level of connectivity (or conversely the number of impassable weirs) a key determinant in natural recruitment. Large-scale dispersal of juveniles (and to a lesser extent adults) may be masking the relationship between local-scale river flows and recruitment, with regular movements among connected river systems driving population fluctuations more than localised spawning [Zampatti et al. 2019; Zampatti et al. 2018; Zampatti et al. 2015].

Golden Perch form a component of a largely mixed recreational fishery in NSW, with anglers often targeting the species in combination with species such as Murray Cod in both rivers and impoundments. Recent estimates of recreational harvest of Golden Perch in NSW/ACT waters indicates that harvest in 2017–18 was estimated at 75 604 individuals (± a standard error of 14 859 individuals), representing a decrease from the estimated 111 176 (± 16 451) individuals harvested in 2013–14 [Murphy et al. 2020]. Both catch and harvest rates are higher in rivers than impoundments and catch and release is a major component of this fishery, with an estimated 39% of captured Golden Perch harvested in 2013–14 and 40% in 2017–18 [Murphy et al. 2020]. These estimates largely align with those from a targeted creel survey in one 76 km reach of the Murrumbidgee River, where Forbes et al. [2015b] estimated that 39% of Golden Perch captured by recreational anglers harvested in 2012–13. Recreational fishing for Golden Perch is open year-round, and a current harvest restriction applies to Golden Perch recreationally captured in NSW waters, including a minimum legal length of 300 mm, a daily bag limit of 5 individuals and a possession limit of 10 individuals per licence holder. Unquantified indigenous harvest of Golden Perch does occur, and the species is considered culturally important [Cameron Westaway, DPI Fisheries, personal communication]. 

To-date there has been insufficient research undertaken to estimate the total abundance, biomass or population trend of Golden Perch at the local scale, or across the State as a whole. Substantial effort has been invested into quantifying the current age structure of the stock [Zampatti et al. 2019], and quantifying vital population statistics including growth, instantaneous mortality and annual mortality rates [Wright et al. 2020] as well as recreational catch, effort and harvest (presented above). As such, there is currently insufficient information available to confidently classify the status of this stock. 

On the basis of the evidence provided above, Golden Perch in New South Wales is classified as an undefined stock.

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[Roberts et al. 2008; Forbes et al. 2015; Mallen-Cooper and Stuart 2003]

Species Longevity / Maximum Size Maturity (50 per cent)
Golden Perch

27 years; 640 mm TL

~225–371 mm TL; ~2–4.9 years. Variable across geographical regions. 

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Distribution of reported commercial catch of Golden Perch.

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Fishing methods
New South Wales
Hook and Line
Hook and Line
Management methods
Method New South Wales
Bag and possession limits
Gear restrictions
Size limit
New South Wales
Indigenous Unknown
Recreational 75,604 individuals (2017-18), 111,176 individuals (2013-14)

Queensland – Indigenous (management methods) for more information see https://www.daf.qld.gov.au/business-priorities/fisheries/traditional-fishing.

Victoria – Indigenous (Management Methods) A person who identifies as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander is exempt from the need to obtain a Victorian recreational fishing licence, provided they comply with all other rules that apply to recreational fishers, including rules on equipment, catch limits, size limits and restricted areas. Traditional (non-commercial) fishing activities that are carried out by members of a traditional owner group entity under an agreement pursuant to Victoria’s Traditional Owner Settlement Act 2010 are also exempt from the need to hold a recreational fishing licence, subject to any conditions outlined in the agreement. Native title holders are also exempt from the need to obtain a recreational fishing licence under the provisions of the Commonwealth’s Native Title Act 1993.

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Catch Chart

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