A MASSIVE fish kill that began on Sunday morning, peaked on Monday and continued into Tuesday at Menindee Lakes has resulted in local fury directed at the federal and state coalition governments and demands for a Royal Commission.
The kill, that perhaps claimed a million fish had “absolutely nothing to do with the drought”, say informed locals.
Speaking from Menindee on Tuesday Tolarno Station owner Rob McBride said “it’s soul destroying and I want people to know it has nothing to do with drought, they’ve drained the Menindee Lakes twice in four years and that’s 16 years of water gone.
“That’s four Sydney Harbours each time. The fish are going to die, there’s no escaping that.
“We went eight-and-a-half months without water in the lakes in 2015 after they’d been drained, they miraculously filled again in 2016 and then they drained them again in 2017,” Mr McBride said.
“This is the worst man-made disaster in our country’s history – 80 per cent of the golden perch in the Murray Darling system originate in the Menindee Lakes.
“The federal and state politicans and the Murray Darling Basin Authority are blaming the drought, we need a Royal Commission, the politicians must go before the courts and the criminals must go to jail.”
Mr McBride said there were unsustainable draws on the river systems and their integrity had been crippled and “if the Darling system collapses, the Murray is not far behind”. Rob Gregory, proprietor of River Lady Tours and operator of a tour boat that plies the lakes from March to November reckoned the death toll could be a million, ranging from Murray cod, golden perch, silver perch, yellow belly and, critically, the bony bream.
“The bony bream is the bottom of the food chain,” said Mr Gregory, “it’s a weed eater and is important not only to bigger fish, but birdlife.”
Department of Primary Industries senior fisheries manager, Anthony Townsend, said fisheries officers visited the affected area on Monday and were investigating.
He blamed drought conditions and then a cool change hitting Menindee at the weekend, killing an existing algal bloom and depleting oxygen from the water.
Adrian Langdon, WaterNSW executive manager of systems operations said algal alerts had been in place for several weeks in the Menindee region and linked to this, “low dissolved oxygen levels are likely to occur within slow-flowing or no-flow sections of the river”.