Haul of Murray Hardyhead

Cross‐border cooperation to streamline recovery actions for the endangered Murray hardyhead (Craterocephalus fluviatilis) in the southern Murray‐Darling Basin

By Lara Suitor (Department of Environment Water and Natural Resources SA)

and Iain Ellis (Murray Darling Freshwater Research Centre / Fisheries NSW, Department of Primary Industries)


The Murray Hardyhead (Cratercephalus fluviatilis) (McCulloch 1913) is a small freshwater fish endemic to the Murray Darling Basin. Due to numerous threats the Murray hardyhead have suffered a decline in distribution on both a state and basin wide scale (Ebner et al. 2003; Hammer et al. 2009; Ellis et al. 2013). Murray hardyhead have not been recorded in New South Wales for the last decade and may be extinct in the state (Ellis et al. 2013). Currently there are eight known sites within South Australia and Victoria where viable populations of Murray hardyhead exist (Ellis et al. 2013). The species in considered to be of conservation significance. It is listed as Endangered under the EPBC Act and Endangered under the International Union for the Conservation of Nature Red List, threatened under the Victorian Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act, and critically endangered in South Australia (Ellis et al. 2013).

Lara and Listy dragging

Disher Creek and Berri Evaporation Basin form part of Murray River wetland systems used for saline water disposal near Berri, in the Riverland region of South Australia (Suitor 2009; Suitor 2012). Sampling efforts of Murray hardyhead at these sites has seen a steady continuous increase in relative abundance since the millennium drought (Suitor 2014; Wegener et al. 2015). Monitoring of both Riverland populations of Murray hardyhead in February 2015 identified strong abundances, which are likely to reflect a positive response to on ground habitat conservation efforts by the Department of Environment Water and Natural Resources, using water supplied by the Commonwealth Environmental Water Office.

This promising monitoring result presented an ideal opportunity for collection of a sub-population of Murray hardyhead from these sites to relocate into an appropriately prepared wetland in Victoria. This interstate translocation was implemented as an action under the National Murray hardyhead recovery Plan (Stoessel et al. 2014)

To the best of our knowledge this is the first official interstate translocation of threatened fish between South Australia and Victoria.  The Murray hardyhead Recovery Team, is at the centre of a well-established collaborative network formed during a decade of conservation programs which enabled this cross-border translocation process to be completed in a matter of weeks.

Project Collaborators

Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water & Planning (DELWP Regional Services and the Arthur Rylah Institute), South Australian Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources (DEWNR), Mallee Catchment Management Authority (MCMA), Commonwealth Environmental Water Office (CEWO), Parks VictoriaVictorian Environmental Water Holder


Ebner, B., Raadik, T., and Ivantsoff, W. (2003). Threatened fishes of the world: Craterocephalus fluviatilis McCulloch, 1913 (Atherinidae). Environmental Biology of Fishes 68, 390.

Ellis, I., Stoessel, D., Hammer, M., Wedderburn, S., Suitor, L. and Hall, A. (2013). Conservation of an inauspicious endangered freshwater fish, Murray hardyhead (Craterocephalus fluviatilis), during drought and competing water demands in the Murray–Darling Basin, Australia Marine and Freshwater Research 64, 792 – 806

Hammer M, Wedderburn S, van Weenan J (2009). ‘Action Plan for South Australian Freshwater Fishes.’ Native Fish Australia (SA) Inc., Adelaide.

Stoessel, D., Ellis, I., Riederer, M. and Keleher, A. (2014). Revised National Recovery Plan for the Murray hardyhead Craterocephalus fluviatilus. Department of Environment and Primary Industries, Melbourne.

Suitor, L.R.K. (2014). Murray hardyhead Craterocephalus fluviatilis (McCulloch) Habitat and Population Progress Report 2012-2014, Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources, Berri, South Australia.

Suitor, L.R.K. (2012). Berri Saline Water Disposal Basin Murray hardyhead Craterocephalus fluviatilis (McCulloch) Habitat Management Plan.

Suitor, L. (2009). Disher Creek Saline Water Disposal Basin Hydrological Management Plan. Department for Environment and Heritage: Berri, SA.

Wegener, I.K., Hoffmann, E.P., Turner, R.J., Suitor, L.R.K., Oerman, G., Mason, K., Nickolai, C. N., Kieskamp, H. (2015). Natural Resources SA Murray-Darling Basin Wetland and Floodplain Program – Environmental Watering Review 2015, Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources, Adelaide.

Further Reading



Read about the 2014 review of the status of Murray hardyhead