The History of Murray Cod

With a rich history and a unique character, the Murray Cod (Maccullochella peelii peelii) is Australia's preeminent fish. It traditionally comes from the Murray-Darling river system, hence the name, and is Australia's largest freshwater fish, growing to over 100 kilograms. The Murray Cod is a renowned sporting fish that is grouper-like in appearance and has a huge mouth. Its back is a mottled, olive-green colour and its belly is a silvery white. Edges of all soft fins may also be tipped in white.

There is fossil evidence that the Murray Cod existed 26 million years ago, although it is possible that the species is as old as the Murray Darling basin itself - 50 to 60 million years old. The Murray Cod has strong links to Australian history dating back 60,000 years to the Aboriginal dreamtime legends relating to how the Murray River was formed. It is an iconic fish that is deeply apart of Australian history and culture.

Photo of a commercial catch of 1800 lbs [818 kgs] of Murray cod, caught in the Murray River at Renmark, South Australia, 1898, in one week's fishing.

In the 1880's Murray Cod was very prolific and provided 75% of the fresh water fish supplied to the Melbourne fish market.

During the 1930s, during and following the Great Depression, the Murray Cod was one of the few sources of food supply for the Australian community. This is one of the main reasons there was so much overfishing, resulting in the prohibition of Murray Cod fishing in the river, and has in turn created such a high demand for this precious iconic fish.

The history of the Murray Cod's evolution is well documented by Stuart Roland in his overview. Further information can be found at the Australian River Restoration Centre.


Guddhu the Murray Cod by
Michael J Connolly - Munda-gutta Kulliwari
Dreamtime Kullilla-Art
© 2009 Dreamtime Kullilla-Art.
All Rights Reserved.