Millions of fish living in the Darling-Baaka River in the Australian state of New South Wales have died following a severe heat wave that has been hitting the area for days. In a Facebook post, the state’s Department of Primary Industries said the heat wave had “added further stress on a river system that had already experienced extreme shocks from recent major floods.” The unusual heat would have reduced the amount of oxygen in the water, which was already lower than usual due to disruption to aquatic ecosystems caused by a series of floods that hit the area in early March.
The school of dead fish stretches for several kilometers and is starting to rot, but there are so many that the authorities believe it is impossible to remove them. Over the next few days, their presence in the water is expected to further reduce the oxygen level in the water, causing further mass deaths among river fauna.
That same area of the river had already been hit by a similar event in the summer of 2018. A group of researchers who had been given the task of understanding what was happening highlighted the role that the ongoing climate change had played in the New West South Wales: “The transition from drought to flood and back to flood is happening faster than ever.”
Since 2008, successive NSW governments have been working on a program that should help improve the health of the river by putting a cap on the amount of water that businesses and local governments in the region can draw from the river. It’s called the Murray-Darling Basin Plan. Its application continues to be extended because the interested parties cannot find a compromise.
Meanwhile, residents of the nearby town of Menindee have described the smell coming from dead fish as sickening. Talking to the Guardianasked one resident to imagine the smell of a dead fish left to rot for a few days in a sink, and then multiply that smell by millions of fish.
– See also: Around the drought