Murray Darling crisis: Gutted anglers take action

OzFish Sunraysia’s
Braeden Lampard.

OzFish Sunraysia’s Braeden Lampard.

RECREATIONAL anglers left heartbroken by images of hundreds of thousands of dead native fish have taken it upon themselves to save others in the Darling River.

Members of fishing group OzFish Unlimited have sourced funding from generous donors and intend to pump oxygen into the river using several aerators – hopefully creating a refuge for fish struggling to cope with depleted oxygen levels in the Darling.

The idea was the brainchild of OzFish Sunraysia president Braeden Lampard, who launched a crowdfunding effort earlier this week once images and footage of fish dying near Menindee began to go viral online.

OzFish has raised enough money to buy at least one aerator, which takes oxygen from above the water’s surface and pumps it into the water.

Mr Lampard said the solar powered aerator cost about $7000.

It’s hope the equipment will be deployed in the lower Darling by early next week.

There are plans to approach more local businesses, including fishing and tackle shops, to encourage them to donate money for another aerator.

“If there are no fish in the Darling River, it’s going to start affecting them at some point,” Mr Lampard said.

OzFish Unlimited chief executive Craig Copeland, a former NSW Fisheries adviser, acknowledged the rescue attempt was not a long-term solution but said the process would “help counteract areas of low oxygen levels which have presented in the river due to low flows”.

About a million fish, including old Murray cod, golden and silver perch and bony bream, effectively suffocated to death after a cold snap broke down blue-green algae that had bloomed in the Darling River during a heatwave.

The disrupted algae depleted oxygen levels in the river.

NSW DPI Fisheries officer Iain Ellis said he had spoken to “numerous fishing groups that want to help” and that the aeration effort was “worth a try”.

“We’ll make sure we try and get the infrastructure in the most appropriate places,” Mr Ellis said.

“The weir pools down the lower Darling are probably fairly vulnerable, the new block banks that went up upstream of them will probably be fairly vulnerable but they’ll also be refuges for fish, so we’ll try and keep a bit of air through those things if we can.”

This story appears in Friday's Sunraysia Daily, 11/1/2019. To subscribe to our Digital Edition, click here