It might be more than 700 kilometres away but the death of Murray cod and yellowbelly fish in the Darling River could have flow-on effects through the Murray Darling basin into the NSW/Victoria border region.
The Darling River at Menindee, which one Menindee resident described as the “womb of yellowbelly”, has been plagued by mass fish deaths in recent months.
At the weekend a large drop in temperature killed blue-green algae, reducing the already low levels of oxygen in the water, leading to thousands of fish deaths.
Russell Mason, of Compleat Angler in Lavington, fears the effects will flow into the border region.
“So it’s not just a local thing, those yellowbellies travel the system,” he said.
“It just makes me sick, seeing cod that are 50 years old dead, everywhere.
“Even if you put the water back tomorrow it’s not something that will be fixed straight away, it will take many years to recover.”
Charles Sturt University freshwater fish ecologist Lee Baumgartner said in 2009 there was a big golden perch spawning event in the lower Darling, and those fish were discovered in the mid-Murray and Edwards rivers. He said research was ongoing.
“It’s pretty heartbreaking,” he said of the mass deaths.
Dr Baumgartner said Murray Cod spent more time in their “home range” and were not known to travel the distances yellowbelly could, so it was unlikely the Menindee incident would affect cod in Albury-Wodonga.
In a viral video, Menindee locals blame the Murray-Darling Basin Authority and the state and federal governments for draining the Menindee Lakes twice in four years, leaving fish stuck in stagnant pools.
But NSW Fisheries and Regional Water Minister Niall Blair said the problem was a lack of replenishment because of the drought.
MDBA chief executive Phillip Glyde said the Menindee Lakes were currently solely controlled by NSW, and blamed the deaths on the lack of water flow and 100 years of over-allocation of water throughout the basin.