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Aspects of the History and Fishery of the Murray Cod, Maccullochella peeli (Mitchell) (Percichthyidae) Stuart J. Rowland (Communicated by J. R. Merrick) ROWLAND, S.J. Aspects of the history and fishery of the Murray cod, Maccullochella peeli (Mitchell) (Percichthyidae). Proc. Linn. Soc. N.S.W. Ill (3), 1989: 201-213. Aspects of the history and fishery of Australia's most famous and largest inland freshwater fish, the Murray cod, Maccullochella peeli, are briefly reviewed. Information and data on fossil records, the prominence of Murray cod in aboriginal mythology and culture, observations of cod by explorers and early settlers, and the development and subsequent decline of a commercial fishery are presented. Possible factors contributing to the reduced abundance of Murray cod are discussed. It is suggested that overfishing caused a decline between the late 1800's and the 1930's, but that extensive environmen-tal modification of the Murray-Darling river system has adversely affected larval recruitment resulting in the dramatic decline in abundance of M. peeli since the 1950's. Stuart J. Rowland, NSW Agriculture & Fisheries, Eastern Freshwater Fish Research Hatchery, Agricultural Research & Advisory Station, Grafton, Australia, 2460; manuscript received 20 July 1988, accepted for publication 19 April 1989. Introduction The Murray cod, Maccullochella peeli (Mitchell, 1838) is an Australian, native, warmwater, percichthyid fish found naturally throughout most of the Murray-Darling river system (Fig. 1) with the exception of the headwaters of some tributaries in Victoria and southern New South Wales (Lake, 1971). M. peeli is Australia's, and one of the world's largest freshwater fish. Whitley (1955) stated that Murray cod grow to 1.8 m (6 ft) and 83 kg (182 lb); however, a cod of 113.6 kg (250 lb) is reported to have been captured from the Barwon River near Walgett in 1902 (Noble, 1955). Although cod in excess of 50 kg are rarely captured, small numbers of cod between 20 and 40 kg are regularly taken by experienced commercial and recreational fishermen, particularly in the Darling, Barwon and Edward rivers, the lower reaches of the Murray and Murrumbidgee rivers, Lake Mulwala on the Murray River, and Lake Burrinjuck on the headwaters of the Murrumbidgee River. Because of its size and excellent edible qualities, Murray cod is highly valued by both commercial and recre-ational fishermen. Despite its importance, there has been little research into the natural history of M. peeli. This paper briefly reviews the part played by Murray cod in aboriginal mythology and culture, the observations made of the species by explorers and early settlers, and the development, decline and current status of the Murray cod fisheries. Possible causes of the dramatic decline in abundance of Murray cod are discussed. Historical Aspects of Murray Cod Origin and Fossil Records Most Australian freshwater fishes, including M. peeli, are considered to have a relatively recent marine ancestry (Whitley, 1959; Darlington, 1965). MacDonald (1978) suggested that the Maccullochella and Macquaria groups (both percichthyids) diverged from a common ancestor during a marine stage of their evolutionary development and made separate colonizations of Australian freshwaters. Hills (1946) recorded fossil Murray cod from diatomaceous earth in the Warrum-PROC. LINN. SOC. N.S.W. , 111 (3), 1989

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Aspects of the history and fishery of the Murray cod, Maccullochella peeli (Mitchell) (Percichthyidae)

S J Rowland
Proceedings of The Linnean Society of New South Wales 111: 201-213 (1989)

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