Further fish kills are expected to hit the Darling River in the NSW far west and Northern Tablelands this week as a searing heatwave takes hold.
The temperature in Menindee, near Broken Hill, is expected to peak at 45 degrees Celsius today, and reach a scorching 46 on Tuesday and Wednesday, according to the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM).
The heatwave is being caused by a hot air mass over the interior of Western Australia, which will migrate across to southeast Australia over the coming days, the BoM says.
Up to a million fish were killed as a result of an algal bloom event in the river at Menindee in early January, with the devastating event making international headlines and putting the spotlight on water management in the region.
Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair acknowledged his department was bracing for more fish kills as a result of the heat.
“Due to high temperatures, we do expect to see more fish kills across parts of the Far West and Northern Tablelands this week,” Mr Blair said.
“We are working with local councils, recreational fishing groups and community groups to both manage these events, as well as providing assistance for clean-up operations.”
Over the weekend, Labor released a confidential government document obtained under Freedom of Information. In the 2012 report, the government’s own experts warned that its proposed 10-year plan for the Darling River would put threatened species of fish at risk.
But Prime Minister Scott Morrison this morning refuted the report.
“I’m concerned today that some might want to play politics,” he told the ABC.
“There were reports done by scientists under Labor’s contribution to that plan back in 2012, the plan has been operating in accordance with that advice and so we need to just keep on working on the issue.”
The fish kill is thought to be one of the largest in Australian history and has angered locals who say it’s a direct result of the Menindee Lakes being drained twice in the past four years.
In January 2016 the Menindee Lakes system was 97 per cent full. It’s now down to 3.6 per cent.
But Mr Morrison said the fish kill was because of the drought.
“It’s a devastating ecological event, particularly for those all throughout that region the sheer visual image of this is terribly upsetting,” he said.
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