Millions of rotting fish are being removed from a river in the Australian Outback after an unprecedented die-off triggered by floods and hot weather, police said today. The fish began dying in the Darling River near the New South Wales town of Menindee on Friday.
Officials believe the die-off likely occurred because fish need more oxygen in hot weather, but oxygen levels in the water fell dramatically after recent floods receded.
Police have established an emergency operations centre in Menindee to coordinate a massive cleanup this week.
They have also established an emergency operations centre in Menindee to coordinate a massive cleanup this week.
Police Assistant Commissioner Brett Greentree said keeping the town’s water supply pure was the main priority and removing the dead fish was the next most pressing issue.
Trained contractors had been contacted about removing the fish with nets, but dates for the work have not yet been fixed.
Mr Greentree said: “I’m certainly not making promises that all the millions of fish will be removed by contractors because that is really a logistical nightmare.
“I understand and acknowledge the smell and sights on the river – nobody wants to see that.”
Authorities were supplying potable water to residents who rely on river water, which was continually being monitored for quality, he added.
Several mass fish deaths have been reported on the Darling River in recent weeks.
Tens of thousands of fish were found at the same spot in late February, while there have been several reports of dead fish downstream toward Pooncarie, near the borders of South Australia and Victoria states.
Enormous fish kills also occurred on the river at Menindee during severe drought conditions in late 2018 and early 2019.
However, Mr Greentree said the current death toll appeared to be far larger than the events in 2018 and 2019.
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“That water right in the top comes down to our pumping station for the town.
“People north of Menindee say there’s cod and perch floating down the river everywhere.”
Jan Dening, a Menindee resident, said: “We’ve just sort of started to clean up, and then this has happened, and that’s sort of you’re walking around in a dried-up mess and then you’re smelling this putrid smell.
“It’s a terrible smell and horrible to see all those dead fish.”