Golden Perch (2023)

Macquaria ambigua

  • Jason Earl (South Australian Research and Development Institute)
  • Brett Ingram (Victorian Fisheries Authority)
  • Thomas Hart (Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Queensland)
  • David Crook (New South Wales Department of Primary Industries)

Date Published: June 2023

You are currently viewing a report filtered by jurisdiction. View the full report.

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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 is classified as undefined in QLD, depleted in NSW, recovering in VIC, and depleting in SA.

Photo: Department of Primary Industries, New South Wales

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Stock Status Overview

Stock status determination
Jurisdiction Stock Stock status Indicators
South Australia South Australia Depleting

Catch, CPUE, fishery-independent surveys

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Stock Structure

Golden Perch occur throughout most of the Murray–Darling system, 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. 2018]. 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 River Murray 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

South Australia

Golden Perch supports important commercial and recreational fisheries in South Australia, primarily in the River Murray, including the Lower Lakes (i.e., Lake Alexandrina and Lake Albert). The commercial Lakes and Coorong Fishery (LCF) targets Golden Perch in the Lower Lakes, and upstream to Wellington. 

The most recent assessment for Golden Perch in the LCF was completed in 2023 and used a weight-of-evidence approach that considered fishery catch and effort data to the end of June 2022 [Earl 2023]. The primary measures for biomass and fishing mortality are total catch and targeted catch per unit effort (CPUE) using large-mesh gillnets (115–150 mm mesh) in the LCF [Earl 2023], and fishery-independent estimates of relative abundance from annual electrofishing surveys in: (1) the Chowilla anabranch and floodplain system of the lower River Murray (near the SA-NSW border) from 2005–22 [Fredberg et al. 2023]; and (2) the gorge section of the lower River Murray (i.e., upstream of the Lower Lakes and downstream of Chowilla) from 2015–22 [Ye et al. 2023]. 

Long-term commercial fishery data are characterised by cyclical interannual variation in total catch, which has been closely linked with variations in target effort and CPUE using large-mesh gillnets [Earl 2023]. In 2021–22, catch declined to its lowest level since 2012–13 and gillnet CPUE declined to its lowest level since 2010–11. These measures were indicative of low-moderate fishable biomass in the Lower Lakes in 2021–22. 

Golden Perch are periodic strategists that spawn and recruit periodically in association with elevated river flows [Mallen-Cooper and Stuart 2003]. Annual electrofishing surveys from 2005-22 indicated that Golden Perch were most abundant in the Chowilla region in 2011, after large-scale overbank flooding in the Murray-Darling Basin (MDB) supported enhanced recruitment and subsequent higher abundances of young-of-the-year (YOY) Golden Perch [Zampatti and Leigh 2013]. Following a succession of low flow years (2015–21), except for a flood in 2016 and elevated flows in 2022, the abundance of Golden Perch at Chowilla has remained low [Fredberg et al. 2023]. 

A progressive decline in abundance was also evident in the gorge section of the lower River Murray, with annual electrofishing CPUE declining by 52% from 2015–20 [Ye et al. 2023]. Potential factors contributing to the decline in abundance in the lower River Murray are limited spawning and recruitment since 2011 [Fredberg et al. 2023; Ye et al. 2023], emigration of adult fish to upstream regions [Zampatti et al. 2018], natural mortality during a widespread hypoxic blackwater event associated with flooding in 2016 [Thiem et al. 2017], and the removal of fish by fishing. In 2022, abundance in the gorge section of the lower River Murray increased due mainly to higher abundances of YOY and the appearance of small cohorts from spawning in 2016–17 and 2018–19. 

The recreational fishery for Golden Perch in South Australia is mainly confined to the River Murray, although the species has been stocked in several reservoirs around the State over recent years. The State-wide recreational survey in 2021–22 estimated that 24,220 Golden Perch were captured, of which 12,721 fish were retained [Beckmann et al. 2023]. The estimated total weight of the retained recreational catch for 2021–22 was 11.2 t, which was 70% lower than the previous estimate of total recreational harvest weight of 37.4 t in 2013–14 (Giri and Hall 2015).

The above evidence indicates that the biomass of this stock is not yet depleted, and recruitment is not yet impaired. The above evidence indicates that, for the period from 2011–22, the biomass declined and that the current level of fishing mortality is likely to cause the stock to become recruitment impaired. 

On the basis of the evidence provided above, Golden Perch in South Australia is classified as a depletingstock.

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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
South Australia
Hook and Line
Traditional apparatus
Hook and Line
Management methods
Method South Australia
Gear restrictions
Limited entry
Size limit
Spatial restrictions
Temporal closures
Total allowable effort
Bag and boat limits
Gear restrictions
Spatial restrictions
Temporal closures
Bag and boat limits
Gear restrictions
Spatial restrictions
Temporal closures
South Australia
Commercial 35.19t
Indigenous Unknown
Recreational 11.21 t (in 2021–22)

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

Queensland – Recreational Fishing (Catch). Data are based at the whole of Queensland level and derived from statewide recreational fishing surveys. Where possible, estimates have been converted to weight (tonnes) using best known conversion multipliers. Conversion factors may display regional or temporal variability. In the absence of an adequate conversion factor, data presented as number of fish.

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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Downloadable reports

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