"Fish Armageddon" rescue mission

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A Murray cod rescued from a pool near Menindee. Image: NSW DPI

THE NSW Government has kicked-off a two-week rescue mission to combat a looming "fish Armageddon" and relocate native fish from drought-stricken Menindee.

NSW Fisheries will rescue as many Murray cod and golden perch as possible from about 20 pools of water that aren't expected to survive the summer.

Rescued fish will be transported to a section of the Lower Darling that will offer better habitat and water quality.

The rescue effort follows devastating fish kills along the Lower Darling earlier in the year and growing fears of more fish kill events this summer with little prospect of rain, high temperatures and record low river inflows.

NSW Agriculture Minister Adam Marshall told The Sydney Morning Herald NSW was facing what the Bureau of Meteorology considers to be the worst drought on record.

"This summer is going to be nothing short of fish Armageddon," Mr Marshall said.

"It’s absolutely critical we get on the front foot while we still have the chance to rescue and relocate as many fish as possible" he said.

Mr Marshall said the operation will target drying pools and the relocation of fish within the Darling River would help maintain genetic and cultural linkages of fish to the Lower Darling.

The strategy would also ensure fish are able to migrate back upstream to their when flows return to the river.

Initially, Menindee Lake fish kills provoked anger amongst graziers who blamed irrigators upstream.

Since then a scathing independent review said over extraction was a contibuting factor in the fish kills and placed the blame squarely at the feet of consecutive NSW water ministers.

Grazier Robert McBride told The Sydney Morning Herald the community along the 500 kilometre stretch of river south of the Menindee Lakes had been pleading with the government for the fish to be rescued.

"We have been asking for months for the fish to be saved because they are dying slowly in puddles of filthy, deoxygenated boggy holes," Mr Mcbride said.

"These fish have to be protected for future generations but the government should have been working to save them over the past six months during the cooler weather." He said.

Mr McBride said Golden Perch and Murray Cod "faced extinction" because the "river systems are collapsing".

It has been revealed, the government also has significant concerns for the Namoi, Macquarie and Lachlan catchments in the early part of the summer as well as the Barwon-Darling, Border Rivers and Gwydir if dry conditions continue.

Sources: The Sydney Morning Herald, NSW DPI FIsheries

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