Fury over Darling fish deaths

Farmers Rob Mc Bride and Dick Arnold have called for drastic action. Source Facebook Tolarno StationMore

The mass fish kill came to national attention on Tuesday when an emotional video by local farmers Dick Arnold and Rob McBride went viral, racking up millions of views.

"The Murray-Darling Basin Plan was established to improve the health of our rivers and floodplains and to avoid the types of ecological disaster we have witnessed with the Menindee fish deaths", Ms Slattery said.

"We're looking at the operating rules around the Menindee Lakes and what we can do". That incident was also blamed on algae, which is said to be more prolific this summer because of ongoing drought.

"It's a national disgrace, this once magnificent Murray cod is dead, and it absolutely stinks".

Back in Sydney, NSW Labor upped the political ante on Thursday, a day after Minister Blair made a visit to Menindee, interrupted in part by local protesters demanding more water to help flush out the blue-green algal blooms that triggered the die-off.

"It's devastating to see the hundreds of thousands of fish killed earlier this week and we believe this is one of the largest fish kills ever seen", Mr Blair later said in a statement.

It's just put out a release to the ASX confirming its business is not affected by the Murray River cod-die off which has stolen the social media spotlight in the past couple of days, because it grows Murray cod in tanks, not the Darling River.

Ranchers and other residents say government water policies are the real cause.

The Board at Murray Cod Australia first extended its sympathy "to the drought affected property owners and townspeople along the Darling River that have been affected by the recent fish kills in the Menindee area". "But the river droughts are happening more often and they're more intense as a result of the irrigation industry in the Darling diverting water from the river over the last 10 to 20 years".

"They don't understand what it would mean [to cancel it]", Blair says, of the NSW Labor stance. The dying algae worsened already low levels of dissolved oxygen in the water, pushing many fish beyond their tolerance levels.

Residents are pointing the finger at state and federal governments for draining too much water from the Menindee Lakes and over-allocating the precious resource to irrigators. But, as an industry, we are growing very exhausted of being "the whipping boy" for all the problems that are being brought on by this crippling drought.

Prof Williams admits it's hard to manage but warns there'll be more fish deaths if there isn't a 30 to 40 per cent reduction in the amount of water extracted.

"It's taking too much water. the fish kills point to our failure with the current implementation of the basin plan", he said.

Peter Hannam writes on environment issues for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

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