Fabulous Fish

The Basin Plan seeks to protect and restore native fish populations through improvements in their distribution and breeding success. Native fish are included as a Basin Plan objective because over the last half century their distribution and abundance within the Murray-Darling has been in serious decline. While no native species are believed to have become extinct, more than half of the region’s species are currently listed as threatened or of conservation concern. Local communities are concerned about the loss of valued native species like the Golden perch, Murray cod and Macquarie perch, and want to bring these native fish back surviving and thriving.

By contrast, populations of introduced fish like European carp, Redfin and Gambusia have grown rapidly, to the point where today they comprise 80–90% of fish biomass in many rivers in the Basin.

We know that native fish respond to changes in flow, habitat loss and connectivity, however, uncertainty remains about the relationship between specific changes in water flows and fish life cycles. This uncertainty makes effective environmental flow management and habitat restoration difficult. The situation is further complicated because changing flows also impact on invasive species, habitat alteration and fragmentation.

When we talked to water managers they wanted more information about how water flows interact with fish responses and life cycles. To meet this need we are investigating the main factors involved in sustaining or limiting the survival of fish through the recruitment phase of their life cycles, when mortality rates are highest. Recruitment investigates what fish larvae need to support them through to juveniles and then adulthood. We are particularly interested in understanding the relative significance of key factors such as food availability and habitat characteristics, and how these factors might interact with flow to affect fish recruitment and population sustainability.

How our fish work fits within the Basin Plan:


The most significant output of MDB EWKR’s Fish Research program is a more refined conceptual model of the relationships between water flow, key drivers of fish recruitment and the response of different types of species. This ultimately improves the ability of water managers to predict how fish recruitment will be affected by different environmental flow conditions and other stressors.  You can learn more about our work by accessing stories and watching the video.

Related stories:

Our MDB EWKR Fish Team:

Team Members
Amina Price
Fish Theme Coordinator
La Trobe University
Amina Price is an aquatic ecologist, and her research topics of special interest include:

Stephen Balcombe

Griffith University

Harry is currently a senior research fellow at the Australian Rivers Institute with research interest in:

  • Ecology of freshwater fish
  • Fish population dynamics in dryland rivers
  • Environmental flow management in the Murray-Darling Basin


Paul Humphries

Charles Sturt University

Dr Paul Humphries’ research interests mostly relate to rivers and their ecology. While he has worked mostly on fish-related topics, he also has an interest in macroinvertebrates and macrophytes. Most of his work in the last 20 years has been on the relationship between riverine biota and flow. Since 1996, he has focussed on aspects of the spawning and early life history of freshwater fishes.
Alison King

Charles Darwin University

Alison is a Principal Research Fellow in RIEL, who is an internationally published aquatic ecologist, with broad research interests in the ecology of floodplain rivers. Her main research interests have focused on investigating the importance of freshwater flows in the ecology of fish, particularly fish recruitment, life history adaptations, environmental flows and flow-ecology relationships. She has a strong background in working collaboratively with a range of stakeholders to ensure improved management through knowledge generation and adaptive management, particularly in optimising flows for improved ecological outcomes.
Brenton Zampatti

South Australia Research & Development Institute

Brenton   Zampatti   is   the   Sub-program   Leader   (Fish Ecology)  in  the  Inland  Waters  and  Catchment  Ecology Program at SARDI. The role is responsible for developing and leading research relating to the ecology of fishes and management  of  freshwater  and  estuarine  ecosystems