SOURCE: The Guardian
DATE: September 9, 2019
SNIP: Faced with a looming ferocious summer with little rain forecast, the New South Wales government has embarked on a Noah’s Ark type operation to move native fish from the Lower Darling – part of Australia’s most significant river system – to safe havens before high temperatures return to the already stressed river basin.
Researchers have warned of other alarming ecological signs that the Lower Darling River – part of the giant Murray-Darling Basin – is in a dire state, following last summer’s mass fish kills.
Professor Fran Sheldon, from Griffith University’s Australian Rivers Institute, said only one surviving colony of river mussels had been found along the river and there were signs that river red gums were under severe stress.
“If the river red gums die, and some are hundreds of years old, there will be a domino effect. Banks will collapse, there will be massive erosion and it will send sediments down the river.”
The NSW agriculture minister, Adam Marshall, said the unprecedented action would provide “a lifeline for key native species ahead of an expected summer of horror fish kills”.
“We’re staring down the barrel of a potential fish Armageddon, which is why we’re wasting little time rolling out this unprecedented action,” Marshall said.
Last December and January fish began dying in their hundreds of thousands in the far west of the state at Menindee, leaving weirs and waterholes carpeted with dead fish. While fish deaths have occurred in the past, the scale was unprecedented and stunned Australians.
[T]here are already doubts about how effective the $10m program will be.
The unprecedented operation aims to move as many fish as possible from 15 to 20 priority waterholes in a two-week period, including Murray cod, some of which are at least 25 years old, golden perch and other rare species.
Boats with electrostatic fishing equipment will be used to stun the fish in weir pools and waterholes along the Darling at Menindee, where they will scooped up and loaded into special climate-controlled transport to a section of the Darling further south, near Wentworth, where the river joins the Murray, which is still flowing.