Pondage barra persist

There have been no reported fish deaths in the Hazelwood Pondage since the winding down of Hazelwood Power Station two weeks ago, Fisheries Victoria says.

“We’ve heard of one Barra that’s a bit groggy in the water,” Fisheries Victoria executive director Travis Dowling told The Express.

“That could be the result of catch and release,” he said.

Mr Dowling said the water temperature had been maintained above 20 degrees in the main lake, down from about 27 degrees when the station was operating.

“We’ve worked out the critical level for barra is below 15 degrees.”

Proponents of the fishery had previously revealed plans to remove part of a barrage leading to a warmer section of the pondage to allow the barra and their food source to migrate there.

But Mr Dowling said so far, the earthworks were not necessary.

“Water is continuing to flow over the barrage and fish are able to get to where the warm water is in that upper pondage,” he said.

This section is heated by aquifers and currently closed to the public, but Fisheries Victoria is in talks with Hazelwood-owner ENGIE and Latrobe City Council about opening it up to anglers.

“At the moment, we’re monitoring fish health and once that stabilises, we’ll look at opportunities to open up areas that are currently closed,” Mr Dowling said.

The waterway is being monitored by a commercial fisherman and Fisheries officers.

Last week the Environment Protection Authority announced new consumption advice for barramundi from the pondage, following revised standards by Food Standards Australia New Zealand relating to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).

The EPA recommends recreational fishers restrict the consumption of barramundi caught at Hazelwood Pondage to one serve per week for adults (150 grams) and one serve per fortnight for children (75 grams or about three fish fingers).

Mr Dowling said he did not believe this would have a negative impact on the fishery’s popularity, as most anglers opted to catch and release.

Last month, independent survey results revealed the barra fishery injected upto $800,000 into the local economy over a four-month period.

Seven thousand of the iconic fighting fish were stocked into the pondage last year, as it had the warmer temperatures needed to sustain the species, because it was used as a cooling system for the Hazelwood power station.