COUNTLESS numbers of native fish will be saved when Australia's first fish screens are installed in the Gunbower Creek at Cohuna.
Four irrigation diversion fish screens will be positioned in front of the channel regulator in the Cohuna Weir pool to prevent native fish and their larvae entering the adjoining channel.
North Central Catchment Management Authority project manager, Nicole Bullen said that research surveys during the peak larval flow period between November and January showed that about 5000 fish larvae entered the channel system every night.
About 150 per night are Murray cod.
"Once they're in the channel, they cannot return to the creek and they either end up in pumps or on paddocks and are lost," she said.
"In the Winter, when the channels are drawn down, they either end up in the shallows, where there's no habitat or snags, or it ends up dry."
The screens will also prevent aquatic weeds entering the channel. While not slowing delivery rates, the screen will stop any floating weed from getting into the channel and choking up irrigation pumps.
Local irrigation engineering firm, AWMA, is constructing the 4.2-metre diameter cones after a two-year research and develop project studying similar screens overseas.
Ms Bullen said that hundreds of thousands of native fish and larvae are lost from the Gunbower Creek and the Murray River system into irrigation channels every year.
She said that Goulburn-Murray Water was co-operating with greater than usual Winter water level to allow the installing wall to be constructed.
A fishway has also been designed for future installation. It will enable fish to swim back upstream after passing through the weir.
Ms Bullen said that fish population surveys will continue over the next two years.
Member for Northern Victoria, Mark Gepp said that recreational fishing contributes about $500 million to the region's economy each year.
"Irrigators, the environment and the local economy will all benefit from this exciting Victorian project, an Australian first.
"Healthy native fish are vital to the sector and the community," he said.
"Victoria's water storages, lakes, wetlands, rivers and streams provide bountiful fishing opportunities as well as flow-on economic benefits for tourism and local economies."