An independent MP was forced to rush off-camera to vomit after he held a dead fish while visiting the Darling River in the small town Menindee in far west New South Wales.
NSW independent MP Jeremy Buckingham personally visited Menindee on Jan. 10 to highlight the mass fish deaths that had occurred in the river system. Earlier in the week on Jan. 7, a video that was posted to Facebook by local farmers of the carcasses of hundreds of thousands of native Murray cod went viral, highlighting the environmental catastrophe that was unfolding in the region.
In the video, Menindee locals Rob McBride and Dick Arnold were filmed standing on the banks of the choking Darling River with one saying he “feels like crying.”
A mass fish kill occurred in the Darling river over the weekend of Jan. 5-6—the second such incident in the same area over three weeks.
— Terry Australis (@AustralisTerry) January 6, 2019
Buckingham posted his own video to social media to raise awareness about the fish deaths and poor state of the rivers.
“Australia, you need to hang your head in shame. Look at this,” Buckingham said, as he retched while holding a rotting fish.
“The cod that I was holding apparently was somewhere in the order of 50 to 60 years old. To see it dead, and to see hundreds of them, if not thousands of them, in the area where we were, dead like that, is truly appalling,” he said, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
“They are rotting, they’re large corpses, they’re bloated in the water. There’s this scum of putrescent grease across the top of the water and it’s truly very, very sad.”
Drought or Mismanagement?
The NSW Department of Primary Industries has launched an investigation into the incident and said the mass fish kill could have been caused by ongoing drought conditions and a sharp drop in temperature.
“After a very hot period, a sharp cool change hit the Menindee region over the weekend, with large temperature drops experienced,” the DPI said in a statement.
“This sudden drop in temperature may have disrupted an existing algal bloom at Menindee, killing the algae and resulting in the depletion of dissolved oxygen.”
Menindee Fish: "It's not drought, unfortunately it is man-made. And I think someone needs to stand up and take accountability for what's happened. We've spoken to a lot of locals already today, and we've seen them crying" – @TolarnoStation farmer Kate McBride. #Menindee #7News pic.twitter.com/Vpd4vAZbIL
— 7 News Sydney (@7NewsSydney) January 9, 2019
As of Jan. 10, there was 3.1 percent of water remaining in Menindee’s lakes, the WaterNSW website stated.
NSW Fisheries and Regional Water Minister Niall Blair said on Jan. 9 that cases of mass fish deaths may persist going forward.
“Unfortunately this is the sort of thing we do see during drought,” he said, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
However, McBride and Arnold say the fish deaths have been caused by mismanagement and draining of the lakes by the Murray Darling Basin Authority, leaving them almost dry.
“This is nothing to do with drought. This is a man-made disaster. This is a result of draining the Menindee Lakes twice in four years, killing the system,” McBride said in the viral video.
“This fish is a hundred years old. It’s never coming back. This is bloody disgraceful,” he added.
Professor Kingsford said the Menindee Lakes had been drained more often than in the past – including twice in the past four years – making such diasters more likely: "It's a classic example of nature biting back."
Algal blooms trigger mass fish deaths https://t.co/jPlS2WFehv
— David Morris (@djmor6) January 7, 2019
Professor Richard Kingsford, Director of the Centre for Ecosystem Science at the University of NSW, told SMH that draining of the Menindee Lakes has been happening more often in recent times, including on two occasions over the last four years, which has made such disasters more likely.
There had been three other mass fish deaths in the region since late December 2018—one in the Darling River at Menindee, one at the Namoi River below Keepit Dam and another at the Lachlan River at Wyangala Dam, according to the DPI.
Storyful contributed to this report.
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