Rod Mackenzie: Using drought for Darling River fish deaths is the easy way out

The state of the Menindee Lakes and the horrific fish kills will affect the Murray-Darling Basin for years to come.
The state of the Menindee Lakes and the horrific fish kills will affect the Murray-Darling Basin for years to come.

I GUESS by now we have all seen the sickening fish kills at Menindee and have been reminded that our rivers and its fishes live in a fragile environment that can so easily be turned on its head. 

This past week I have done several interviews with newspapers and radio on these events and find each take and the questions asked very interesting.

First up, when asked by the presenter before going on air what are your thoughts on the fish kill, don’t make the mistake of directing any form of fault towards the Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA). I did this and my interview was stopped before it started.

Secondly, and quite interesting, was how each state was solely concerned on how this event at Menindee might affect their local area, be it Victoria, SA or NSW. In other words, is this water likely to get to us? 

The Murray-Darling Basin crosses many borders, but these are just lines in the sand drawn by man.

It is a massive system from top to bottom and each and every section is as important as the other.

To show interest if it is only going to affect a particular section that concerns you is exactly why we are seeing these events unfold.

What starts at the top affects the bottom, it’s a ripple effect and this massive fish kill is just one pebble in the pond.

The Menindee Lakes, a proven nursery for up to 80 per cent of golden perch that later inhabit the lower Murray are all but dry.

Zero recruitment to go downstream will affect golden perch in the Murray for years to come. And the flow-on effect begins.

The tens of thousands of native fish that died in the Darling River at Menindee over the past few weeks are lost to breeding and the river alike.

It is fact that this section of the Darling River and below is one of the best Murray cod breeding sites in the basin.

Chances are before the summer is over all this could be gone also.

And the first question asked by most is – will this affect our state?

The answer is, of course, yes, it will affect all states and with it all riverside communities for years if not decades to come.

"Storing less water to avoid evaporation as opposed to saving tens to possibly hundreds of thousands of native fish in the Darling River speaks volumes on what’s most important to the MDBA."

Rod Mackenzie

I have watched as social media has condemned cotton growers in the north as the sole cause of these problems, yet there is no cotton grown below Menindee where this massive fish kill transpired.

The Menindee Lakes were full in 2016, holding enough water to manage continual flow in the lower Darling for six years – this includes the section of water at Menindee where the fish kills have taken place.

Where did this water go as it would have saved these fish and ensured good breeding seasons of native fish for years to come?

The lakes were drained in less than 18 months.

Storing less water to avoid evaporation as opposed to saving tens to possibly hundreds of thousands of native fish in the Darling River speaks volumes on what’s most important to the MDBA.

Drought is an easy out, but far from a solution to the real devastation our fishes and inland rivers are experiencing in a regulated system that looks to be on the verge of collapse due mainly to mismanagement and over-allocation.

Rod Mackenzie's Cod Tales column appears in Friday's Sunraysia Daily 11-1-2019. To subscribe to our Digital Edition Click here

Comments