A devastating disaster has struck the fish population of an Australian river for the second time in four years.
Current estimates of the fish kill in the Darling River, near the 500-person town of Menindee in New South Wales, reach as high as a million dead fish, according to the New York Post.
A massive algae bloom was blamed for the deaths of thousands of fish in the same area in 2019.
Cameron Lay, director of freshwater environments at DPI Fisheries, called the massive deaths “very distressing,” according to the Australian Broadcasting Corp.
He said this kill could be “on par” with the 2019 mass deaths.
“The reports from late yesterday, early this morning … [suggested] we were looking at thousands, potentially tens of thousands, of predominantly bony bream — which is a native species — that have died,” he said Thursday.
“Those estimates are well and truly into the millions now. We are seeing tens of kilometers where there is fish really as far as the eye can see, so it’s quite a confronting scene,” he said.
“It’s horrendous here today. The river is just white. I’m looking at probably a kilometer or a kilometer-and-a-half of fish and they’re all dead. It’s unfathomable,” he said.
Nature photographer Geoff Looney said masses of dead fish were in the river Thursday night, according to the Daily Mail.
“The stink was terrible. I nearly had to put a mask on,” Looney said.
“I was worried about my own health. That water right in the top comes down to our pumping station for the town,” he said.
Looney told the Guardian that by Saturday, “it will be just dead rotting fish through the township and people won’t be able to use the water.”
Officials blamed the weather.
“This event is ongoing as a heat wave across western NSW continues to put further stress on a system that has experienced extreme conditions from wide-scale flooding,” according to a representative for the Australian Department of Primary Industries, the Post reported.
“These fish deaths are related to low oxygen levels in the water (hypoxia) as flood waters recede,” the representative said.
“The current hot weather in the region is also exacerbating hypoxia, as warmer water holds less oxygen than cold water, and fish have higher oxygen needs at warmer temperatures,” the representative said.
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