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

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 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
South Australia South Australia Sustainable

Catch, CPUE, age composition

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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

South Australia

Golden Perch is an important species for commercial and recreational fisheries in South Australia. Historically, the commercial fishery had three main sectors: the River (or Reach) Fishery; the Lake Eyre Basin Fishery (LEBF); and the Lakes and Coorong Fishery (LCF). The River Fishery was established in 1923 and operated in the lower Murray River, before it was closed in 2003 [Ferguson and Ye 2012]. The LEBF was established in 1992, and has one licensed fisher that operates on the pastoral holding of Mulka Station. The LEBF is a unique fishery due to its dependence on the dispersion of Golden Perch to the region during large-scale flood events within the system. As such, the fishery has operated and reported catches in seven of the past 28 years. The LCF is the main commercial fishery for Golden Perch in South Australia, targeting the species in the Lower Lakes of the Murray River (Lakes Alexandrina and Albert). The most recent assessment for Golden Perch in the LCF was completed in 2020, and used a weight-of-evidence approach that considered fishery catch and effort data to the end of June 2019 [Earl 2020].

The primary measures for biomass and fishing mortality are total catch and targeted gillnet catch per unit effort (CPUE) for the LCF [Earl 2020], and spatially-limited fishery-independent estimates of CPUE and age structures from electrofishing surveys undertaken in the Chowilla Anabranch and Floodplain system since 2005 [Fredberg et al. 2020]. The most obvious long-term trend in the commercial fishery data is the cyclical nature of the interannual variation in total catch, which has been closely linked with variations in targeting and CPUE. Catch peaked at 206 t in 1994–95, then declined to around 37 t in 2001–02, before increasing to a secondary peak of 152 t in 2006–07 [Earl 2020]. Since then, catches have been lower. Between 2013–14 and 2016–17, annual catches were between 79–88 t, before increasing to 105 t in 2017–18. Catch declined to 61 t in 2018–19, reflecting a decline in targeted fishing effort. Catch rates for gillnets in the LCF have increased to historically high levels over the past decade, and have been indicative of high fishable biomass. In 2018–19, CPUE for gillnets was the second highest recorded in the fishery. 

Fishery-independent electrofishing survey data from 2005-2019 indicated that Golden Perch were most abundant in the Chowilla Anabranch and Floodplain system (i.e. near the SA-NSW border) in 2011, after large-scale flooding in the Murray-Darling Basin, and were least abundant in 2005-2010, 2016, 2018 and 2019 in association with low River Murray flows [Fredberg et al. 2020]. Golden Perch are periodic strategists that spawn and recruit periodically in association with elevated river flows [Mallen-Cooper and Stuart 2003], and the high abundances in Chowilla in 2011 were a result of enhanced recruitment in association with overbank flooding [Zampatti and Leigh 2013]. The low abundances in Chowilla in 2019 reflect limited spawning and recruitment over recent years [Fredberg et al. 2020, and likely emigration of adult fish to upstream regions [Zampatti et al. 2018] associated with generally low flows that have prevailed in the southern Murray-Darling Basin [King et al. 2020]. The lack of recruitment in Chowilla in recent years is typical of the periodic strategy of Golden Perch and is a pattern that is reflected broadly across regions of the Murray-Darling Basin [King et al. 2020]. 

Golden Perch is a popular target for recreational fishers in South Australia. The State-wide recreational survey in 2013–14 estimated that 116 153 Golden Perch were captured, of which 37 367 fish were harvested [Giri and Hall 2015]. The estimated total recreational harvest weight was 37.4 t, which was 30 per cent of the State’s total catch in 2013–14. The above evidence indicates that the biomass of this stock is unlikely to be depleted and that recruitment is unlikely to be impaired. Furthermore, the evidence indicates that the current level of fishing mortality is unlikely to cause the stock to become recruitment impaired.

On the basis of the evidence provide above, Golden Perch in South Australia is classified as a sustainable 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
South Australia
Hook and Line
Traditional apparatus
Hook and Line
Management methods
Method South Australia
Gear restrictions
Limited entry
Size limits
Spatial restrictions
Temporal closures
Total allowable effort
Bag and boat limits
Gear restrictions
Spatial closures
Temporal closures
Bag and boat limits
Gear restrictions
Spatial closures
Temporal closures
South Australia
Commercial 61.32t
Indigenous Unknown
Recreational 37.4 t (in 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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