River ‘armageddon’ prompts Australian fish rescue

Sydney, Sept 9 (AFP/APP):Australia began rescuing wild fish from drying sections of its biggest water system Monday, hoping to avoid a repeat of mass fish deaths that prompted outrage last summer.

Fish have become stranded in isolated pools in the Darling River amid a prolonged drought that has ravaged much of the sunburnt country’s eastern interior.

New South Wales state Agriculture Minister Adam Marshall warned of a “fish Armageddon” this southern hemisphere summer, without drastic action to save the river’s critically endangered Murray Cod and other native fish species.

Last summer up to a million fish died in the same area of the river — part of the vast Murray-Darling Basin that serves as the lifeblood of Australia’s food bowl.

Scientists said the deaths were caused by low water and oxygen levels as well as potentially toxic algae.

Now the government has begun an effort to relocate thousands of fish to healthier sections of the river or into hatcheries.

Up to 20 pools of fish will be moved downstream in the first stage of the relocation effort, which is expected to be rolled out across the drought-stricken state in the coming months.

Other fish will be removed from the river altogether, and placed into private and state-owned hatcheries until the water starts flowing again.

Some environmentalists have cast down on the efficacy of the Aus$10 million ($6.85 million) plan, which the state government has dubbed a “modern-day Noah’s Ark”.

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