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Fish once believed extinct return to Torrens after 100 years


Tiny purple-spotted fish not seen in the River Torrens for more than a century are making a long-awaited return.

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It was back in 2002 that members of the Nature Glenelg Trust were alerted to a population of the critically endangered southern purple-spotted gudgeon being discovered in a waterway near Murray Bridge.

A landowner found the fish that were thought to be extinct at Jury Swamp – but ecologists became concerned as the Millennium Drought began drying up the region’s water, with volunteers rescuing about 50 fish.

Trust senior aquatic ecologist Dr Sylvia Zukowski said the gudgeons were moved into a breeding program reaching across schools from Urrbrae College to Investigator College at Victor Harbor, along with dams and wetlands across the state.

The fish were introduced to Oaklands Wetland two years ago, with Marion Mayor Kris Hanna saying they had been “breeding like crazy”.

“There are enough now to share with the River Torrens, but I hope plenty will stay with us,” he said.

The southern purple-spotted gudgeon, which grow to about 13cm long, now number in the thousands.

The breeding program’s success today saw Trust members, along with the City of Marion and Green Adelaide, catch about 500 of the fish from Oaklands Wetland in Marion and Beyond Wetland near Victor Harbor, for vet checks and release into the recently revamped Breakout Creek/Purruna Pari section of the River Torrens/Karrrawirra Pari.

“We’ve finally got to a point where we have enough fish so that we can do these wild releases,” Zukowski said.

southern purple-spotted gudgeon

Dr Sylvia Zukowski helps with the release of southern purple-spotted gudgeon into the River Torrens today. Photo: supplied

The fish with their colourful purple spots are being reintroduced to the Torrens at the optimum breeding time when water temperatures hit about 22 degrees, she said.

Females search for hard surfaces like logs and rocks to lay eggs, then males protect the eggs until they hatch after a few weeks.

Environment Minister Susan Close said the release will play a key role in boosting the species’ resilience.

“Conservation activities as part of the redevelopment of the area, like water quality management, pest management and habitat restoration, have all assisted in making the re-wilding project possible,” Close said.

southern purple-spotted gudgeon

Marion Mayor Kris Hanna, helping with the southern purple-spotted gudgeon collection at Oaklands Wetland. Photo: supplied

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