The Murray-Darling river system faces a “fish Armageddon”, prompting the Australian government to start rescuing wild fish from drying-up sections of its biggest water system on September 9th, hoping to avoid the repeat of mass fish deaths last summer.
Fish have become stranded in isolated pools in the Darling River amid a prolonged drought that has ravaged much of the sunburnt country's eastern interior, according to AFP. New South Wales State Agriculture Minister Adam Marshall warned of a "fish Armageddon" this southern hemisphere summer, if drastic action is not taken to save the river's critically endangered Murray Cod and other native fish species.
The New South Wales government has embarked on a Noah’s Ark type operation costing Aus$10 million ($6.85 million) as a rescue package 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.
Marshall stated, "With record low rainfall and high temperatures predicted over the coming months, this action will help protect our iconic species in the midst of the worst drought on record." He admitted there will almost certainly be further severe events leading to the risk of more fish deaths this summer.
Up to 20 pools of fish will be moved downstream in the first stage of the relocation effort, which is expected to be rolled out across the drought-stricken state in the coming months. Other fish will be removed from the river altogether and placed into private and state-owned hatcheries until the water starts flowing again.
Last summer up to a million fish died in the same area of the river -- part of the vast Murray-Darling Basin that serves as the lifeblood of Australia's food bowl. The health of the Murray-Darling Basin, a river network stretching across one million square kilometres (400,000 square miles), about twice the size of Spain, has been the subject of intense debate in Australia for years.