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Massive kill up the river

Monday, 7th January, 2019

Fish dead and dying in the Menindee town weir pool. PICTURE: Graeme McCrabb Fish dead and dying in the Menindee town weir pool. PICTURE: Graeme McCrabb

By Michael Murphy

Menindee woke to another massive fish kill along the Darling River yesterday morning, the second environmental disaster in the “womb” of the Murray-Darling Basin in less than a month.

Tens of thousands of dead or dying fish were spotted in the murky waters upstream of the river township, mostly smaller bony bream, but also thousands of Silver and Golden Perch, and Murray Cod to a lesser extent.

Once he discovered the kill, Menindee’s Graeme McCrabb enlisted some youngsters in the township to help save hundreds of exhausted perch.

Graeme and his young volunteers pushed them into deeper sections of the river to bring them back to life.

“The water they were in was quite warm, and they had given up at that stage, some were belly up,” Graeme said.

“They were thick, as you walked in a foot of water, you would stand on the fish, and these were perch.

“There was quite a lot stuck below the old town weir by the railway bridge.”

Graeme yesterday travelled the river, the same section where at least ten thousand were found dead a week before Christmas, including large Murray Cod, some of them more than 100 years old.

In that kill, about 15km of the 40km stretch of river contained dead fish. Graeme estimated that yesterday’s kill filled about 30km of the river.

He said it would be extremely difficult for the fish populations, especially perch, to recover from this disaster.

Menindee was the “be-all and end-all” for perch in the Murray-Darling Basin, where they breed, feed and grow up. 

Another Menindee local, John Coombe, 65, who has lived in the river township all his life, says he saw foam in the river a few days before both kills.

“Three days ago I noticed a foam build-up around the reeds, which happened about the same time the fish died three weeks ago,” Mr Coombe said.

“It seemed like a sign it was happening again.

“I mentioned it to a few people ... we’ll have to look out for it when it happens again.

“That’s if there’s any fish left.”

Mr Coombe walked down to the Menindee boat ramp yesterday morning and his worst fears were realised when he spotted fish dead underneath and on top of the water, mostly bony bream.

“These are freshly dying and still dying, gulping for air,” Mr Coombe said.

“They weren’t there yesterday, so it happened overnight.

“(Even) the shrimps are trying to get out of the water.”

The green river water had turned a murky colour in the past few weeks he said, and the smell had been putrid at times.

“It’s got murky appearance to it, and it smells bad.

“It’s a very potent smell, and it seems to grab you.

“You can smell it coming through the taps.”

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