A 2000km project designed to help native fish species travel up the River Murray has been launched at Waikerie today.

Federal Parliamentary Secretary for the Environment, Senator Simon Birmingham, and South Australian Minister for Water and the River Murray, Ian Hunter, today officially launched the Sea to Hume fishway program near Waikerie in South Australia’s Riverland.

“The $70million project included 17 fishways designed to help native fish species navigate major weirs and barrages on the River Murray,” Senator Simon Birmingham said. 

“This is the only project of its kind in Australia and one of the only fishway projects in the world to focus on protecting native fish rather than commercial species.

“This project has been 10 years in the making and has restored 2225km of fish passage from the Murray Mouth in South Australia to the Hume Dam on the border of New South Wales and Victoria. 

“Over the decades, we’ve developed the River Murray so that it can best support our communities and industries, but this has affected our native fish species which need to swim upstream as part of their breeding cycle.

“By building a series of fishways, we help our native fish species to navigate their way around river structures, like weirs.”

Minister Hunter says the new fishways will help to increase the population and distribution of more than 25 species of native fish such as Murray cod and golden perch, by taking out man-made obstacles along the river system.

“While locks, weirs and barrages play an important role, mainly in the navigation of boats through different sections of the river, they restrict the natural movement of some native fish,” Minister Hunter said. 

“The installation of fishways at these sites allows the fish to migrate upstream for breeding, safety and to establish new territories. They also help in the management of invasive species like carp, with specialised separation structures in use at several of the fishways.”

The project was funded by the Living Murray program and supported through $70 million of funding from the Federal Government and the governments of South Australia, New South Wales and Victoria.