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Aquarium raised olive perchlet released into Victorian waters after nearly 100-year extinction

  • Monday 20th March 2023


 SEA LIFE Melbourne Aquarium together with the Tri State Alliance Mid Murray Floodplain Recovery Reach Program, funded by the Murray Darling Basin Authority and Victorian Department of Energy, Environment, and Climate Action, have successfully released a population of olive perchlet into wetlands with suitable habitat in Bendigo and Mildura.


The olive perchlet, a small floodplain specialist fish, was once widespread throughout the Murray-Darling Basin however wasn’t strong enough to deal with its enemies – predation by introduced species, habitat degradation, cold-water pollution from reservoirs, and degraded wetlands. As a result, it was declared officially extinct in Victoria in 1988.


A combined effort from organisations across three states has brought back the olive perchlet to central and northern Victorian wetlands.


The Tri State Alliance brings together seven natural resource bodies along the Murray from Victoria, New South Wales, and South Australia, including the North Central and Mallee Catchment Management Authorities.

SEA LIFE Melbourne Aquarium obtained juveniles from New South Wales DPI Fisheries and have been rearing them up as part of the same program that saw the southern purple spotted gudgeon, better known as the zombie fish, reintroduced into Victorian wetlands.


The Alliance and SEA LIFE Melbourne led the stocking of the aquarium-bred olive perchlet into surrogate wetlands on March 17, with help from NSW fisheries, SuniTAFE, the City of Greater Bendigo, and OzFish Unlimited.


“The sites were carefully selected, having no exotic fish species, permanent water supply, and enhanced habitat (aquatic plants and woody habitat added) to give the species the best chance of thriving. We expect the fish to breed at these sites and be part of the long-term plan to re-stock the species into restored floodplain habitats throughout the Murray corridor where the species used to be prolific. After the initial success of the zombie fish program in Bendigo and Mildura, we’re looking forward to seeing yet another important small native fish thriving in our region’s wetlands and rivers.” - Dr Peter Rose, Project Manager at the North Central CMA and the Tri State Alliance’s Mid Murray Floodplain Recovery Reach coordinator.


Sam Fawke is the Curatorial Displays Supervisor at SEA LIFE Melbourne and leads the aquarium’s olive perchlet and southern purple spotted gudgeon breeding programs.

“It’s amazing to see the olive perchlet released into the surrogate wetlands. After receiving the fish from NSW Fisheries, we were able to create an optimal environment to rear the fish while also educating our visitors about the importance of wetland conservation. We look forward to continuing to work with Tri State Alliance to bring more native fish species back from the brink of extinction.”