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The Menindee Fish Kills

The Menindee Fish Kills refers to two separate incidents of fish dying en masse in the Menindee area along a 40-kilometre stretch of the Darling River in New South Wales, Australia. The first of these kills occurred between December 2018 and January 2019 and the second in March of 2023.

Dead fish lie in the mud of the Murray Darling river system through Menindee in Rural NSW. The text "The Menindee Fish Kills" is foregrounded.

The fish kills are a devastating ecological event, with millions of fish dying, including many native and critically endangered species such as the Murray cod, bony herring, golden perch, and silver perch.

Attention was brought to the fish kills following the upload and ensuing media coverage of a video by independent New South Wales MP, Jeremy Buckingham in early January of 2019, which showed him, accompanied by local farmers Dick Arnold and Rob McBride, discussing the extent of the fish kills, before Mr. Buckingham dry retched as a result of the fish carcasses stench.

At the time the fish kills were reported to be the result of algal blooms and oxygen depletion along the river system with then-Premier, Gladys Berejiklian, stating that there was nothing the government could have done to prevent the disaster.

Following the 2023 fish kill, it was reported that this occurrence was again due to low oxygen levels in the water but this time caused by black water being released into the system. Furthermore scientists raised concerns that the NSW’s Environmental Protection Agency’s water testing results from the fish kill site were inaccurate.

Professor of environmental science at Western Sydney University, Dr. Ian Wright, stated that if the EPA’s water test results were an assignment submitted to him by one of his students, he would score it 3.5/10:

“If this was a first year assignment, I’d fail them…This is a complex and dynamic situation. We should have multiple days of data for something of this magnitude… This would not get published in science [journals] … it is not commensurate with the seriousness of the environmental emergency here.”

Dr. Wright also outlined the concerns with the EPA’s tests which included:

  • The water samples were taken on 21st March, five days after the actual fish kill event began on the 16th March.

  • The samples were collected by a separate agency, Water NSW, not the EPA themselves

  • Six samples does not constitute an adequate sample size to draw accurate conclusions from.

  • Only one sample was taken at each of the six locations. Dr. Wright stated that multiple samples should have been taken from each location at multiple depths.

  • Tests for bacteria in the water were not made, which should have been given there were millions of rotting fish carcasses in the water.

Later that month, the NSW government announced an inquiry into the event to be led by the state’s chief scientist, Prof. Hugh Durrant-Whyte. The resulting report was released in August of 2023.

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