Scouting pubs and clubs across south-eastern Australia might not seem a bad way to spend your study time, but for Charles Sturt University (CSU) researcher Mr Matt O’Connell, it is all in the name of science.
Mr O’Connell, a doctoral student with the CSU School of Environmental Sciences, is looking out for the fish that did not get away, the ones that were stuffed, mounted and often displayed in country hotels and clubs.
“The mounted Murray cod is a unique part of Australian culture but unfortunately in recent years the iconic species has been declining and remains under threat,” Mr O’Connell said.
“I want to find as many mounts as possible and talk to the people who display these fish and have a strong connection to them, to find out what motivates them to mount and display their fish.”
Mr O’Connell’s study into Murray cod mounts, funded in part by the Murray Darling Basin Authority(MDBA), will provide baseline knowledge of past catches and could help understand past fishery conditions and improve how Murray cod are managed in the future.
Listen to Mr O’Connell
Mr O'Connell said,
“Real fish mounts are rarely made these days, and I am exploring their value to science as records of past conditions of the fishery. This exploratory research will help us find where they are and allow further research on the mounts themselves.
“The preserved fish mounts, their catch records, and where and how they are displayed can serve as valuable time capsules and give us a picture of their past characteristics and range.
“The study aims to see how people value the mounts and what drives them to keep and display them.
"Reliable historical records about the Basin can be hard to find and often have gaps. Photographs can be distorted, and size is not always accurately depicted.
“Fish that have undergone taxidermy are solid, tangible evidence from which we can gather accurate information.
“These fish could form part of the largest privately held collection for one species in the world.”
MDBA Executive Director Environmental Management, Mr Carl Binning, said this work is important to the Authority because it helps to build a better understanding of historic Murray cod numbers, distribution through the system, and sizes.
“As a science-based independent organisation we are pleased to support work that contributes to a strong evidence base,” Mr Binning said.
“This is a good example of the significant contribution the community can make to scientific research − research that may have direct relevance for the future management of this important species.
“The MDBA looks forward to seeing the results of the study in 2020, as it may inform our monitoring and evaluation, as well as our future planning.”
Mr O’Connell already has leads on nearly 300 mounts scattered across NSW, ACT, Victoria, Queensland and South Australia.
“People can help me get a more complete picture across the Basin by filling in an online survey form which should take about 10 minutes,” Mr O’Connell said.
How to Spot a cod mount
Complete a survey online at www.codspot.com.au
For each mount:
- Get permission from the owner to collect and share information on the mount;
- Take photos of the cod mount and its records such as where and when it was caught;
- Record the sizes of the mounted fish and any history of the mount.