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Dire state of the Darling River a national disgrace

Thursday, 20th December, 2018

By Emily McInerney

Fish populations around Menindee would take a long time to recover after a massive kill on the weekend, West Darling Fishing Club president Robert Bosch said yesterday.

NSW Fisheries officers found dead fish of various species all along a 40km stretch of the river on the weekend, blaming poor water quality and algae blooms.

West Darling Fishing Club president Robert Bosch said the fish kill wasn’t a surprise.

“We all knew it was coming; but it was so early and came so quickly,” he said yesterday.

“It is partially due to no flows and the drought isn’t helping.

“The drought is a natural occurrence and we have no control over that.

“Everybody goes on about evaporation - it was a whitewash job as Lake Menindee was drained and a lake alongside it, Lake Speculation, still contained water.

“So the evaporation theory is shot to pieces. A lot of us have wised up.”

Mr Bosch said the continued draining of the lakes because of evaporation claims was ridiculous.

“When they do dump the water it goes to Lake Victoria, in South Australia, which is a third of the depth of Lake Menindee.

“Surely it evaporates quicker there? There is always talk about evaporation.

“The management of the whole lower Murray-Darling Basin is to blame.

“The over-allocation to irrigators, they have a stranglehold on the amount of flows and it is detrimental to the river.”

Mr Bosch said the harvesting of cotton has also contributed to the poor water.

“As well as that, cotton being what it is, with all the pesticides and herbicides used it is destroying the water.

“It all ends up in the waterways. The phosphate fertilisers that are dumped in the river help algae to grow.

“Blue-green algae is a natural occurrence but too much fertiliser is seeing it grow faster.

“I was surprised the algae was here so quickly.”

Mr Bosch said he was on the river on Sunday afternoon when dead fish were rising to the top of the water.

“The water is disgusting, it is a lime green colour, it is cloudy and there is algae everywhere.

“The algae extracts oxygen to survive and has contributed to killing off the fish.

“It wouldn’t have been as bad, if it has been managed correctly.”

An avid fisher over decades, Mr Bosch said the river had managed to maintain some flows until now.

“I’ve been fishing on the river for 60 years and up to the mid-1980s there has always been flows.

“The river was always a clear, pale green and the lakes always had water in them.

“The whole system has been mismanaged so badly. The NSW Government has a lot to answer for. 

“If you or I did these things, we would be jailed.”

He said the system may not fully recover from the mass deaths of fish and wildlife.

“The fish are dying and it is going to take years to recover.

“My prediction is that in the next two months all along Wilcannia and Wentworth will be the same.

“It won’t be hundreds of fish dying; but thousands.”

Mr Bosch said the Lakes system was the largest natural yellow-belly fish sanctuary and he was concerned about the state of the fish now.

“I’m not sure how they will come back from this.

“This sounds the death knell for the whole lot of it. It doesn’t have to be in this state.

“I bet there will be a cotton crop this year. It is a national disgrace.”

He said one whole body needed to manage the system, not have a state agreement.

“We need a national body to manage the system, not state by state.

“How they are going to reverse it from here, I don’t know?

“The rain from Darling Downs won’t even reach Bourke.

“We’re in a really bad situation, we went through it in 2010 and I thought there was no way in the world it would rain.

“But then we were in flood.

“We just need to ensure the water doesn’t get let out again.

“But all the politicians care about is being on the right side of the irrigators.”

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