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Australia Menindee prepares for summer, with efforts underway to prevent more mass fish kills

09:42  24 november  2019
09:42  24 november  2019 Source:   abc.net.au

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More than a million fish died in December 2018 and January this year along the Darling River at Menindee , which was once home to 60 different fish species. Local fisherman Graeme McCrabb still recalls the stench that saturated the town following what has been called Australia’s largest fish kill

Read more . The panel has called for an immediate effort over the next six months to restore flows, combined with a Menindee Lakes restoration plan focused on restoring its ecology, not saving water But Moritz acknowledged there were limited options to prevent more fish deaths in the short term.

a man standing next to a body of water: One of the large pumps installed to create turbulence in the Darling River at Menindee. (ABC Broken Hill: Gayle Ball)© Provided by Australian Broadcasting Corporation One of the large pumps installed to create turbulence in the Darling River at Menindee. (ABC Broken Hill: Gayle Ball)

Efforts are underway in Menindee, in far-west New South Wales, to try to lessen the impact of conditions that are expected to bring more mass fish kills.

The community is still reeling from the devastation of last summer, where hundreds of thousands of native fish perished in the Darling River.

Some locals took matters into their own hands at the time, installing pontoon aerators to oxygenate small sections of the river to try to create areas of refuge for the fish that survived.

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More . The federal government has set aside an additional 0,000 to "Make no mistake, we are likely to see fish deaths this summer . We're facing another hot summer with Massive amounts of fish carcasses rotted in western NSW's Menindee Lakes last summer in a horrific ecological disaster.

A small number of dead Murray cod also discovered at Lake Pamamaroo.

New South Wales Department of Primary Industries (DPI) fisheries manager Iain Ellis said that local knowledge had been harnessed by authorities.

"The locals saved fish last year so we're piggy-backing on the information we learned from that, to repeat that where we can," Mr Ellis said.

The DPI has installed four pontoon aerators and two large-scale pumps in the Menindee region.

Menindee prepares for summer© ABC Menindee prepares for summer

An extra four pontoon aerators will be placed in the Macquarie, Gwydir and Namoi Valleys by the end of this week, as part of the State Government's $10 million fish rescue plan.

"We're not covering a large area, we're doing what we can with the resources available to keep a few alive in some different locations," Mr Ellis said.

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There are doubts the Noah’s Ark plan for the Lower Darling will be enough to prevent more mass fish kills .

More dead fish surface on the Darling River at Menindee – video. The new fish kill is in the same location as the last one on the Darling river, above the weir at Menindee NSW regional water minister Niall Blair said aerators had been installed between the fish kill events but it was difficult to prevent .

Menindee 'citizen' scientists

DPI Fisheries held 'citizen science' workshops for locals to get them involved in collecting environmental data about how the aerators and pumps were working.

Those without the relevant permits were also advised not to remove struggling fish from the river.

"We'd encourage people not to move fish off their own bat because it does carry a hefty penalty despite them trying to do the right thing," Mr Ellis said.

"We need to avoid a free-for-all where everyone does their own thing and we have no idea who's moved fish where or moved them into the wrong place."

Keen angler Clinton Hann from Broken Hill said he attended the workshop because of the devastation he witnessed last summer.

"I just want to help the river system, try to sustain something, keep something alive, give us a chance to catch fish in the future," Mr Hann said.

Menindee prepares for summer© ABC Menindee prepares for summer

"I suppose everyone's got the fear that everything will happen again."

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Most locals believe the fish kills are the direct result of the government’s decision to empty the Menindee Lakes in 2016 and 2017 and send the Fisheries staff from the NSW primary industries department were on Tuesday heading to the Redbank weir near Balranald to confirm reports of the

Days after a mass fish kill in the Darling River at Menindee , hundreds of carcasses were still on the river bank near the town. Credit:Nick Moir. Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair said on Tuesday that nine of these machines will be installed "as a temporary measure" to help fish populations survive the

Local support necessary

Menindee resident Graeme McCrabb said the effort would not be possible without the support of locals.

"Some of the stations have certainly gone out of their way to actually facilitate having units put in their property," Mr McCrabb said.

"I just don't think it's possible in the area that we live, if you don't get community support these processes wouldn't happen at all.

"It shows real community spirit, and how important the river is."

Menindee prepares for summer© ABC Menindee prepares for summer

Won't save them all

Despite the efforts, authorities have said that without fresh flows into the river more fish deaths were almost certain this summer.

"Fish will run out of water, we can't get to every pool, we've done plenty of relocations, which people might have seen on the news, where we've tried to shift fish from those drying pools," Mr Ellis said.

We're certainly gearing up for the same types of conditions. We've got no flow in the river, we've got a warm outlook, and it's been hot already.

"We're set up for that again at many valleys across the state this summer. We can't avoid it if it happens, we're just trying to avoid a few fish from dying where we can."

Community to continue fighting

Menindee prepares for summer© ABC Menindee prepares for summer

Menindee Aboriginal Land Council CEO Cindy Bates said everyone in the community was concerned, but determined to do what they could to help.

"We're not going to sit back, we're not going to bow down, we'll keep fighting for water," Ms Bates said.

"It's important to us. We're not going to sit back and watch all this unfold, we need to keep fighting and fight we will."

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