Marine and Freshwater Research Marine and Freshwater Research Society
Advances in the aquatic sciences

Monitoring by telemetry reveals differences in movement and survival following hatchery or wild rearing of an endangered fish

B. C. Ebner A B D and J. D. Thiem A C
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Parks, Conservation and Lands, Department of Territory and Municipal Services, ACT Government, GPO Box 158, Canberra, ACT 2601, Australia.

B Present address: Australian Rivers Institute, Griffith University, Nathan, Qld 4111, Australia.

C Present address: Institute for Applied Ecology, University of Canberra, Bruce, ACT 2601, Australia.

D Corresponding author. Email:

Marine and Freshwater Research 60(1) 45-57
Submitted: 7 February 2008  Accepted: 31 August 2008   Published: 29 January 2009


Species reintroduction is a management strategy used to conserve endemic fish biodiversity. The present study investigated stocking on-grown endangered trout cod (Maccullochella macquariensis) in the Murrumbidgee River, Australia. The hypothesis that post-juvenile dispersal underpins the long-term scarcity of adults recorded at fingerling stocking locations was also tested. Radio-tracking was used to quantify dispersal of stocked sub-adults (2-year old hatchery fish, n = 27) compared with fish originally stocked as fingerlings (unknown-age wild fish, n = 31), but we encountered poor survivorship of the former group (survivorship = 9% and 95%, respectively, at 13 months post release). The hatchery group exhibited both limited dispersal and large-scale dispersal (up to 55 km) downstream from the release site. Wild fish exhibited limited net dispersal, occupying home-ranges within a 13-km reach and occasionally undertook large-scale excursions (10–70 km). It is concluded that (1) re-establishment of cod populations based on release of on-grown fish is not straightforward, and (2) adults of this species have an ability to disperse away from stocking sites. The study demonstrates the benefit of using radio-tracking to monitor the movement and survivorship of stocked threatened fish and indicates a need to consider the effects of hatchery rearing when conducting fish reintroductions.

Additional keywords: dispersal, hatchery, Maccullochella, radio-tracking, reintroduction, survivorship.


The idea for this comparison of wild and hatchery trout cod came from discussion with I. Wooden. We are also grateful to the project Steering Committee. V. Carracher, D. Gilligan, S. Godschalx, M. Jekabsons, L. Rava, M. Stimson and I. Wooden assisted with wild fish collection. Staff at the Snobs Creek Research Station, including P. Boyd, B. Ingram and P. Ryder reared fish and provided support. S. Godschalx assisted in surgery. L. Baumgartner, B. Broadhurst, S. Godschalx, M. Jekabsons, L. Johnston, M. Lintermans, P. Maclean, M. McLellan, M. Stimson and S. Thurstan provided field assistance. S. Thurstan also provided advice that influenced the project. State Water staff including L. Beck, M. Deaton, M. McNamara and E. Taylor mounted the telemetry aerials at Yanco Weir. M. Dunford provided invaluable GIS support, M. Evans and E. Harrison provided statistical advice and S. Vink provided water quality data. Input from D. Gilligan, K. Frawley, B. Ingram, M. Lintermans and K. Ryan improved versions of this manuscript. Two anonymous reviewers also improved this manuscript. This research was funded by the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation, Environment ACT and NSW Department of Primary Industries with additional contributions from Victorian Department of Primary Industries, Cooperative Research Centre for Freshwater Ecology, Murray–Darling Basin Commission, the Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research, RecFish Australia, NSW State Water and the Department of Infrastructure, Planning and Natural Resources. This study was performed under NSW Fisheries Animal Care and Ethics Committee authorisation 03/07 in Wiradjuri Country.


ACT Government (2007). Ribbons of life: ACT aquatic species and riparian zone conservation strategy. Action Plan No. 29. Department of Environment and Recreation, Canberra. Available at:

Armstrong, D. P. , and Seddon, P. J. (2008). Directions in reintroduction biology. Trends in Ecology & Evolution 23, 20–25.
CrossRef |

Bettinger, J. M. , and Bettoli, P. W. (2002). Fate, dispersal and persistence of recently stocked and resident rainbow trout in a Tennessee tailwater. North American Journal of Fisheries Management 22, 425–432.
CrossRef |

Brown P. (1998). Goulburn River trout cod stock assessment, November 1997: growth and mortality estimates. MAFRI Freshwater Division Fish Survey 97/15. Marine and Freshwater Resources Institute, Queenscliff.

Brown, C. , and Day, R. (2002). The future of stock enhancements: lessons for hatchery practice from conservation biology. Fish and Fisheries 3, 79–94.
CrossRef |

Brown A. M., Nicol S. J., and Koehn J. D. (1998). Recovery plan for the trout cod Maccullochella macquariensis 1998–2005. Aquatic Ecosse Pty Ltd and Department of Natural Resources and Environment, Melbourne.

Butler G. (2001). Age, growth and telemetric tracking of the eastern freshwater cod, Maccullochella ikei (Pisces: Percichthyidae) within the Mann–Nymboida River System, NSW. B.Sc. (Hons) Thesis, Southern Cross University, Lismore.

Caughley, G. (1994). Directions in conservation biology. Journal of Animal Ecology 63, 215–244.
CrossRef |

Crook, D. A. (2004a). Is the home range concept compatible with the movements of two species of lowland river fish? Journal of Animal Ecology 73, 353–366.
CrossRef |

Crook, D. A. (2004b). Movements associated with home-range establishment by two species of lowland river fish. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 61, 2183–2193.
CrossRef |

Dieperink, C. , Pedersen, S. , and Pedersen, M. I. (2001). Estuarine predation on radiotagged wild and domesticated sea trout (Salmo trutta L.) smolts. Ecology Freshwater Fish 10, 177–183.
CrossRef |

Douglas, J. W. , and Brown, P. (2000). Notes on successful spawning and recruitment of a stocked population of the endangered Australian freshwater fish, trout cod, Maccullochella macquariensis (Cuvier) (Percichthyidae). Proceedings of the Linnean Society of New South Wales 122, 143–147.

Douglas J. W., Gooley G. J., and Ingram B. I. (1994). Trout cod, Maccullochella macquariensis (Cuvier) (Pisces: Percichthyidae) resource handbook and research and recovery plan. Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Melbourne.

DSE (Victorian Department of Sustainability and Environment) (2003). Advisory list of threatened vertebrate fauna in Victoria. Victorian Department of Sustainability and Environment, Melbourne.

Ebner B., Johnston L., and Lintermans M. (2005). Re-introduction of trout cod into the Cotter River catchment. Final Report to the Natural Heritage Trust, Environment ACT, Canberra.

Ebner B., Thiem J., Lintermans M., and Gilligan D. (2006). An ecological approach to re-establishing Australian freshwater cod populations: an application to trout cod in the Murrumbidgee catchment. Project No. 2003/034. Parks, Conservation and Lands, Canberra.

Ebner, B. C. , Thiem, J. D. , and Lintermans, M. (2007). Fate of 2 year-old, hatchery-reared trout cod Maccullochella macquariensis (Percichthyidae) stocked into two upland rivers. Journal of Fish Biology 71, 182–199.
CrossRef |

Ebner, B. C. , Thiem, J. D. , Gilligan, D. M. , Lintermans, M. , Wooden, I. J. , and Linke, S. (2008). Estimating species richness and catch per unit effort from boat electro-fishing in a lowland river in temperate Australia. Austral Ecology 33, 891–901.
CrossRef |

Ebsary R. (1992). Regulation of the Murrumbidgee River. In ‘The Murrumbidgee: Past and Present’. (Eds J. Roberts and R. Oliver.) pp. 49–59. (CSIRO Division of Water Resources: Griffith.)

Faragher R. A., Brown P., and Harris J. H. (1993). Population surveys of the endangered fish species trout cod (Maccullochella macquariensis) and eastern cod (M. ikei). NSW Fisheries, Sydney.

Fischer, J. , and Lindenmayer, D. B. (2000). An assessment of the published results of animal relocations. Biological Conservation 96, 1–11.
CrossRef |

Gillanders B., Elsdon T., and Munro A. (2006). Impacts of native fish stocking on fish within the Murray–Darling Basin. Murray–Darling Basin Commission, Canberra. Available from:

Gilligan D. (2005). Fish communities of the Murrumbidgee catchment: status and trends. Fisheries Final Report Series No. 75. NSW Department of Primary Industries, Sydney.

Gilpin M. E., and Soulé M. E. (1986). Minimum viable populations: processes of species extinction. In ‘Conservation Biology: The Science of Scarcity and Diversity’. (Ed. M. E. Soulé.) pp. 19–34. (Sinauer Associates: Sunderland, MA.)

Gowan, C. , Young, M. K. , Fausch, K. D. , and Riley, S. C. (1994). Restricted movement in resident stream salmonids: a paradigm lost? Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 51, 2626–2637.
CrossRef |

Growns, I. , Wooden, I. , and Schiller, C. (2004). Use of instream wood habitat by Trout Cod Maccullochella macquariensis (Cuvier) in the Murrumbidgee River. Pacific Conservation Biology 10, 261–265.

Harris J. H., and Mallen-Cooper M. (1994). Fish-passage development in the rehabilitation of fisheries in mainland south-eastern Australia. In ‘Rehabilitation of Freshwater Fisheries’. (Ed. I. G. Cowx.) pp. 185–193. (Fishing News Books UK, University of Hull: Hull, UK.)

Harris J. H., and Rowland S. J. (1996). Family Percichthyidae: Australian freshwater cods and basses. In ‘Freshwater Fishes of South-Eastern Australia’. 2nd edn. (Ed. R. M. McDowall.) pp. 150–163. (Reed Books: Tea Gardens, NSW.)

Hooge P. N., and Eichenlaub B. (1997). ‘Animal Movement Extension to Arcview 1.1.’ (US Geological Survey: Anchorage, AK.)

Ingram B. A. (2004). Murray cod fingerling production and growout. In ‘Development of Intensive Commercial Aquaculture Production Technology for Murray Cod’. (Eds B. A. Ingram and S. S. DeSilva.) pp. 25–65. (Primary Industries Research: Melbourne.)

Ingram, B. A. , and Douglas, J. W. (1995). Threatened fishes of the world: Maccullochella macquariensis (Cuvier, 1829) (Percichthyidae). Environmental Biology of Fishes 43, 38.
CrossRef |

Jones G. P. (1991). Post recruitment processes in the ecology of coral reef fish populations: a multifactorial perspective. In ‘The Ecology of Fishes on Coral Reefs’. (Ed. P. F. Sale.) pp. 294–398. (Academic Press: San Diego, CA.)

Koehn J. (1997). Habitats and movements of freshwater fish in the Murray–Darling Basin. In ‘Proceedings of the 1995 Riverine Environment Research Forum’. (Eds R. J. Banens and R. Lehane.) pp. 27–32. (Murray–Darling Basin Commission: Canberra.)

Koehn, J. D. , and Harrington, D. J. (2006). Environmental conditions and timing for the spawning of Murray cod (Maccullochella peelii peelii) and the endangered trout cod (M. macquariensis) in southeastern Australian rivers. River Research and Applications 22, 327–342.
CrossRef |

Koehn J. D., and O’Connor W. G. (1990). Biological information for management of native freshwater fish in Victoria. Victorian Department of Conservation and Environment, Melbourne. Available from:

Koehn, J. D. , Nicol, S. J. , McKenzie, J. A. , Lieschke, J. A. , Lyon, J. P. , and Pomorin, K. (2008). Spatial ecology of an endangered native Australian percichthyid fish, the trout cod Maccullochella macquariensis. Endangered Species Research 4, 219–225.
CrossRef |

Lintermans M. (1995). The status of trout cod Maccullochella macquariensis in Bendora Reservoir, ACT: results of 1992/93 and 1995 monitoring. Internal Report 95/4. ACT Parks and Conservation Service, Canberra.

Lintermans M. (2006). A review of stock enhancement activities for threatened fish species in Australia. In ‘Research, Development and Extension Priorities for Stock Enhancement, Fish Stocking and Fish Recovery’. (Ed. B. Sawnok.) pp. 30–43. (Recfish Australia: Brisbane.)

Lintermans M., and Phillips B. (2004). ‘Downstream Movement of Fish in the Murray–Darling Basin: Statement, Recommendations and Supporting Papers.’ (Murray–Darling Basin Commission: Canberra.)

Lintermans M., Rowland S. J., Koehn J., Butler G., Simpson R., and Wooden I. (2005). The status, threats and management of freshwater cod species in Australia. In ‘Management of Murray Cod in the Murray–Darling Basin: Statement, Recommendations and Supporting Papers’. (Eds M. Lintermans and B. Phillips.) pp. 15–29. (Murray–Darling Basin Commission: Canberra.)

Metcalfe, N. B. , Valdimarsson, S. K. , and Morgan, I. J. (2003). The relative roles of domestication, rearing environment, prior residence and body size in deciding territorial contests between hatchery and wild juvenile salmon. Journal of Applied Ecology 40, 535–544.
CrossRef |

Minckley, W. L. (1995). Translocation as a tool for conserving imperiled fishes: experiences in western United States. Biological Conservation 72, 297–309.
CrossRef |

Molony, B. W. , Lenanton, R. , Jackson, G. , and Norriss, J. (2003). Stock enhancement as a fisheries management tool. Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries 13, 409–432.
CrossRef |

Morris S. A., Pollard D. A., Gehrke P. C., and Pogonoski J. J. (2001). Threatened and potentially threatened freshwater fishes of coastal New South Wales and the Murray–Darling Basin. NSW Fisheries Final report series No. 33. NSW Fisheries, Sydney.

Nicol, S. J. , Lieschke, J. , Lyon, J. , and Koehn, J. D. (2004). Observations on the distribution and abundance of carp and native fish, and their responses to a habitat restoration trial in the Murray River, Australia. New Zealand Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research 38, 541–551.

Nicol, S. J. , Barker, R. J. , Koehn, J. D. , and Burgman, M. A. (2007). Structural habitat selection by the critically endangered trout cod, Maccullochella macquariensis, Cuvier. Biological Conservation 138, 30–37.
CrossRef |

NSW DNR (2004). New South Wales Department of Natural Resources supported website [Accessed 18 October 2005].

NSW DPI (New South Wales Department of Primary Industries) (2006). Trout cod (Maccullochella macquariensis) recovery plan. New South Wales Department of Primary Industries, Port Stephens, Australia.

O’Connor, J. P. , O’Mahony, D. J. , and O’Mahony, J. M. (2005). Movements of Macquaria ambigua, in the Murray River, south-eastern Australia. Journal of Fish Biology 66, 392–403.
CrossRef |

Ricker, W. E. (1975). Computation and interpretation of biological statistics of fish populations. Bulletin of the Fisheries Research Board of Canada 191, 1–382.

Salvanes, A. G. V. , and Braithwaite, V. A. (2005). Exposure to variable spatial information in the early rearing environment generates asymmetries in social interactions in cod (Gadus morhua). Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 59, 250–257.
CrossRef |

Simpson, R. R. , and Mapleston, A. J. (2002). Movements and habitat use by the endangered Australian freshwater Mary River cod, Maccullochella peelii mariensis. Environmental Biology of Fishes 65, 401–410.
CrossRef |

Snedecor G. W., and Cochran W. G. (1980). ‘Statistical Methods.’ (Iowa State University Press: Ames, IA.)

Tabachnick B. G., and Fidell L. S. (1989). ‘Using Multivariate Statistics.’ (Harper and Row Publishers: New York.)

Thiem, J. D. , Ebner, B. C. , and Broadhurst, B. T. (2008). Diel activity of the endangered trout cod (Maccullochella macquariensis) in the Murrumbidgee River. Proceedings of the Linnean Society of New South Wales 129, 167–173.

Thorstad, E. B. , Heggberget, T. G. , and Økland, F. (1998). Migratory behaviour of adult wild and escaped farmed Atlantic salmon, Salmo salar L., before, during and after spawning in a Norwegian river. Aquaculture and Research 29, 419–428.

Todd, C. R. , Nicol, S. J. , and Koehn, J. D. (2004). Density-dependence uncertainty in population models for the conservation management of trout cod, Maccullochella macquariensis. Ecological Modelling 171, 359–380.
CrossRef |

Wallace M. P. (2000). Retaining natural behaviour in captivity for re-introduction programmes. In ‘Behavioural Conservation’. (Eds L. M. Gosling and W. J. Sutherland.) pp. 300–314. (Cambridge University Press: Cambridge.)

Young W. J., Roberts J., and Hillman T. J. (2001). The rivers of the Basin and how they work. In ‘Rivers as Ecological Systems: The Murray–Darling Basin’. (Ed. W. J. Young.) pp. 3–43. (Murray Darling Basin Commission: Canberra.)

Rent Article (via Deepdyve) Export Citation Cited By (26)