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Farewell, Fish

Thursday, 12th September, 2019

NSWDPI Fisheries’ Martin Asmus runs water into the gills of a recused Murray Cod from below Weir 32 on the Darling River. PICTURES: Myles Burt NSWDPI Fisheries’ Martin Asmus runs water into the gills of a recused Murray Cod from below Weir 32 on the Darling River. PICTURES: Myles Burt

By Myles Burt

Locals watched on as Murray Cod and Golden Perch were shocked and caught during a fish rescue on the Darling River yesterday as NSW Department of Primary Industries Fisheries branch rolled out an electro fishing boat into drying pools south of Menindee’s Weir 32. 

Murray Cod and Golden Perch were stunned with 500 - 1000 volt cables extending off the boat, making it easier for NSW Fisheries employees to net the fish. 

Workers then carried the fish to transport trucks with water holding tanks, so the fish could be released into the Lower Darling connection to the Murray River near Wentworth, NSW. 

Hatchery Manager at Narrandera Fishery Centre Matthew McCellan said the fish rescues would span around two weeks within the Lower Darling. 

“It’s hard to know exactly because we don’t know how many fish we’re going to get and how long the actual process will take,” Mr McCellan said.

“Basically how fast we can travel will depend on how many fish we get.

“But we’ve been doing two to three sites each day.”

Mr McCellan said the DPI Fisheries team had been to Pooncarie on Tuesday, where they rescued and shifted 99 fish in total from drying pools.

“There were some really big fish amongst them, there was probably 15 to 20 Murray Cod around that metre mark so they are big individuals,” Mr McCellan said.

“So that was a great day.”

The team consists of eight employees who have been working together to stun, catch, carry and transport fish from the Lower Darling to Wentworth. 

Mr McCellan said fish will unfortunately be left behind as the team aren’t able to shift every single fish out of each drying pool. 

“There will be some fish left behind but we’re trying to do as many places as we can, getting some of the fish rather than all of the fish from one or two places,” Mr McCellan said.

The rescued fish would be able to move back into the Darling River once an event occurs that will re-establish river connectivity, said Mr McCellan. 

When asked if the fish would naturally migrate back to Menindee, Mr McCellan said they aren’t able to tell the fish what to do.

“They’ll have the opportunity to move once that connects,” Mr McCellan said.

“Exactly what they do will be up to them but the chances are they could come back.”

With hot weather on the horizon and no rain or inflows in sight, Mr McCellan said now was the ideal time to relocate fish from the Darling River with more summer fish kills expected and algal blooms that could occur sooner than expected.

“As we come into those warmer months, water temperature heats up, it makes all the processes happen faster and that’s when you’re at risk of having a fish kill,” Mr McCellan said.

“We’re getting out here now, being proactive and doing something before we get to that critical juncture.

“Probably the biggest threat for these fish is just the pools literally drying up.

“So by acting now we’re trying to get ahead of that and give these guys as good a chance as they can have.”

The remaining drying pools have, so far, been sustaining native fish, said Mr McCellan.

He said he was happy to see caught fish looking healthy and in good condition.

“Especially considering what they’ve been through it shows how resilient our native fish are,” Mr McCellan said.

“It’s great that we can get out there and give them a hand.”

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