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Evening Standard
Evening Standard
Sami Quadri

Australia begins major clean-up after millions of fish die in river

A major clean-up operation has been launched after millions of fish died in a river in the Australian Outback following floods and hot weather.

The unprecedented fish deaths in the Darling River near the New South Wales town of Minindee are thought to have been caused by low levels of oxygen in the water.

An emergency hub has been set up by officials to monitor water quality.

Describing the operation as “very challenging and significant”, NSW Police Commander Brett Greentree said the event was “unprecedented in terms of the millions of fish which have died.”

“Our purpose is making sure Menindee has clean water supply… I’m comfortable we’re in a good spot regards to water quality at the moment,” he told reporters.

Commander Greentree said contractors with specialised skills would use "a netting procedure" to remove the fish.

"But I need to be very upfront with the community and say ‘will every fish be removed?’ I don’t think so, from the information I’ve had," he added.

Residents of the Outback town of Menindee complained about the impact of the dead fish.

Jan Dening said: “We’ve just sort of started to clean up, and then this has happened, and... 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.”

Nature photographer Geoff Looney found huge clusters of dead fish near the main weir in Menindee on Thursday evening.

“The stink was terrible,” he said. “I nearly had to put a mask on. I was worried about my own health.

“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.”

Mass kills have been reported on the Darling-Baaka 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 towards Pooncarie, near the borders of South Australia and Victoria states.

Enormous fish kills occurred on the river at Menindee during severe drought conditions in late 2018 and early 2019, with locals estimating millions of deaths.

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