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NSW Government takes action to minimise fish kill events on Darling-Baaka

Minister for Water Rose Jackson is on ground in Menindee today to announce the NSW Government’s next steps to implement the recommendations made in the Chief Scientist’s report into mass fish deaths on the Darling-Baaka River. The Government will begin work immediately on a number of actions to lower the risk of more fish deaths occurring this summer.

Actions outlined in the NSW Government response include:

  • Continuing to adjust water releases from Lake Pamamaroo to keep an oxygenated flow through the Weir 32 weir pool to support native fish.
  • Establishing an independent Connectivity Expert Panel which are to provide initial advice early next year on potential changes to NSW water sharing plans which could improve downstream outcomes.
  • Boosting water quality monitoring by:
    • installing a new real-time telemetered buoy at Menindee with two more to be in place by mid-December;
    • installing 20 real-time sensors in 2023-24 and another 20 across the Basin by 2024-25; and
    • putting a crew on the ground twice a week at Menindee for on-site monitoring.
  • Considering Section 324 temporary water restrictions to restrict low priority licences as drier conditions escalate.
  • Carrying out temporary fish passage investigations and exploring funding options with the Commonwealth for permanent fish passages.
  • Beginning fish surveys to understand where and how many fish are stuck, to inform fish relocation and carp removal, before the end of the year.
  • Trialling cutting edge technology to put oxygen into the water, similar to what is occurring in Western Australia.
  • Advertising a role to employ staff based permanently in Menindee or the Far West to assist in implementing government projects and coordinating responses on the ground.

Work is continuing to map out further steps needed to address longer term solutions and a more detailed response with further actions will be published by mid-2024.

Major fish deaths hurt the environment and local communities along the river which is why the NSW Government pushed hard for a robust, impartial and independent inquiry in the immediate aftermath to look at the causes and pinpoint how and where things can be done better.

The recommendations from Office of the Chief Scientist and Engineer have been accepted in full by the NSW Government and, more importantly, work to address many of these findings is already well underway.

Quotes attributable to Minister for Water Rose Jackson:

“There are no shortcuts here. Openness and transparency are the cornerstones of our approach, so we’re sharing exactly how we will be implementing the recommendations and addressing the findings of the Chief Scientist’s report.

“It’s clear there are still many gaps in the system, but we are getting on with the job to address them.

“I want to reassure locals we are doing everything in our power to reduce the risk of another major fish death event but with warm conditions and many fish in the Menindee weir pool continuing to put pressure on the system the risk of more of fish deaths over the coming weeks and months will remain very high.

“As we move forward with our response, we are continuing consult closely with the wider community and key stakeholders including the Barkandji Native Title Group and Central Darling Shire Council to keep them informed every step of the way.”

Quotes Attributable to Minister for Regional NSW Tara Moriarty said:

“We know major fish deaths are devastating for the environment and local communities along the river, so we are taking action to minimise the risk of fish deaths in the immediate future while we continue to map out longer term solutions.

“The actions outlined in our response have been informed by the Chief Scientist’s robust, impartial and independent inquiry and are a crucial step towards protecting fish populations in the Darling Baaka.

“Connected waterways are vital for our native fish to breed, feed and move to find suitable habitat, providing better opportunities to survive extreme events like drought and floods.

“Fish passage at Menindee Lakes is the highest priority under the NSW Fish Passage Strategy. The NSW Government is continuing to work closely with the Commonwealth to progress permanent fish passage solutions for the Lower-Darling Baaka and restore fish movement along this significant waterway.”

Cleaning up fish deaths.
The clean up operation during the March 2023 mass fish deaths near Menindee.