A fish species thought to be extinct may have been found during fish population surveys at Third Reedy Lake near Kerang.
Victorian Water Minister Lisa Neville said the rare sighting reflected the work done to protect the ecosystems.
“This is a major environmental discovery — potentially recovering a native Victorian species that has been extinct for over two decades,” Ms Neville said.
Two southern purple spotted gudgeon fish (Mogurnda adspersa) were believed to be seen for the first time in more than 20 years during a lake recovery project.
The fish were declared extinct in 1998 under the Victorian Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988.
They were found on Tuesday, October 29 by crews engaged by Goulburn-Murray Water's Connections project to restore Third Reedy Lake to its original state as a freshwater marsh.
The project involved relocating native fish from the lake to better habitats in nearby waterways.
Victorian Energy, Environment and Climate Change Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said the habitat would be protected.
“Lakes, waterways and wetlands provide habitat for an array of native plants and animals and our strong biodiversity program will ensure they have a home for generations to come,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.
The sighting will be confirmed by DNA testing from a small sample of a fin, and the lake draw-down process has been temporarily halted.
If confirmed, the Victorian Government will work with water corporations, catchment management authorities, Victorian Fisheries Authority, environmental consultants, fish experts and the community to develop an appropriate strategy to protect and recover the species.
The Third Reedy Lake project is part of the $2 billion Connections project, Australia’s largest irrigation modernisation project.
The project includes restoring lakes previously used within the irrigation system to a more natural condition.