Fish Armageddon Imminent: NSW Minister

August 28, 2019 Updated: August 28, 2019

The New South Wales government hopes a $10 million Noah’s Ark style plan will stave off a “potential fish Armageddon” facing the state this summer but critics say the coalition is sticking a band-aid on a gaping self-inflicted wound.

The Berejiklian government’s five-pronged plan aims to marry better research and increased breeding with fish rescue operations to save some of the state’s native fish from a forecast ecological disaster as the drought drags on.

There’ll be additional fish rescue teams and emergency fish housing with stock returned to their natural habitat once the “perfect storm” of adverse conditions subside, Agriculture Minister Adam Marshall said in a statement on Aug. 28.

drought australia
An aerial view of Lake Tandure Menindee, Australia on Aug. 15, 2019. (Mark Evans/Getty Images)

It’s also hoped artificial aeration, oxygenation and chemical treatment could support water quality and fish survival across NSW rivers.

“The situation we are facing this summer is nothing short of a potential fish Armageddon,” Marshall said.

“There’ll be more severe fish kill events this summer and we know there’s not a lot we can do to prevent it.

“(But) we’ll create a virtual Noah’s Ark for native fish species through the largest breeding and restocking effort to save native fish species.”

Millions of fish died in a number of mass death events near Menindee last summer sparking calls for the Murray-Darling Basin Plan to be scrapped.

mass fish deaths
Stills from a Facebook video highlighting mass fish deaths in the Darling River in Mendinee, NSW, Australia. Hundreds of thousands of fish died in the Darling river over the weekend of Jan. 5-6, the second such incident in the same area over three weeks. (Rob Gregory and Tolarno Station via Storyful)

Nature Conservation Council co-ordinator Jack Gough says the government is now creating a “fish zoo” instead of taking action to improve river conditions.

“This announcement is the National party trying to stick a band-aid on a gaping, self-inflicted wound,” he said in a statement on Aug. 28.

“Successive National Party water ministers have overseen a regime of over-extraction by large irrigation corporations which has undermined the resilience and health of our mighty inland rivers.”

The Natural Resources Commission—an independent government agency—reported in July that over-extraction from the Barwon-Darling River brought on drought conditions three years early.

Water Minister Melinda Pavey disputed the report’s findings and criticised commissioner Dr John Keniry who hit back saying she was “shooting the messenger”, Nine newspapers reported Aug. 28.

By Tiffanie Turnbull