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Fish death toll rises

Tuesday, 8th January, 2019

Maree McCrabb in a cool room with dead cod fished out of the Menindee weir pool. PICTURE: Rob Gregory Maree McCrabb in a cool room with dead cod fished out of the Menindee weir pool. PICTURE: Rob Gregory

By Emily McInerney

Hundreds of thousands of native fish are now dead in the Darling River after the weekend’s fish kill, according to the NSW Regional Water Minister’s office.

A spokeswoman for Minister Niall Blair said the Department of Primary Industries (DPI) and Water NSW were investigating the environmental disaster.

“At least hundreds of thousands of fish have been affected, including Golden Perch, Murray Cod and Bony Herring,” the spokeswoman said.

“After a very hot period, a sharp cool change hit the Menindee region over the weekend, with large temperature drops experienced.

“This sudden drop in temperature may have disrupted the algal bloom at Menindee, killing the algae and resulting in the depletion of dissolved oxygen.”

The fish kill came on the back of another in December last year.

“It resulted from intense rainfall events after very hot conditions that exacerbated water quality concerns by mixing remaining water in riverine pools and disrupting algal blooms, further reducing the oxygen available for already stressed fish,” she said.

“During the December event, investigations by District Fisheries Officers from DPI revealed over 10,000 fish mortalities along a 40km stretch of the Darling River.

“Preliminary investigations by DPI into the current fish kill event have found at least hundreds of thousands of native fish have been impacted in the same stretch of waterway and further downstream.”

Shadow Water Minister Chris Minns said the state of the river was evidence of the National Party’s mismanagement.

“(It) has been an utter debacle,” Mr Minns told the BDT yesterday.

“What is needed now is an urgent investigation other than ministers saying it is due to drought.

“We call on the National Party to abandon their plans to close down this important piece of the Darling River.

“It is now an environmental disaster and it is a fragile eco-system.

“We will see more disasters occurring in the future, that’s why the decommissioning of the Menindee Lakes shouldn’t go ahead.”

Much of regional NSW is experiencing intense drought conditions, with the state’s Central West, Far West and North West regions the worst affected, according to Adrian Langdon, WaterNSW executive manager of systems operations.

“The result is record low inflows into some major dams and cease-to-flow conditions in many rivers and creeks, with climbing summer evaporation rates placing further pressure on falling supplies,” Mr Langdon said.

“As well as bringing hardship to local farmers and surrounding communities, the stressed river network is also impacting the riverine environment.

“These impacts are being felt most acutely in the form of declining overall water quality, blue-green algae outbreaks and fish kills.

“Without significant rainfall to generate replenishment flows, it’s is almost certain these impacts will persist and possibly increase further as summer proceeds.”

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