Millions of dead and rotting fish have clogged a swath of a river near a remote town in the Australian outback as a scorching heatwave grips the region.
Videos posted on social media showed boats slogging their way through blankets of dead fish submerged in water that was barely visible.
“Millions” of fish have died in the Darling River near the small town of Menindee, the NSW government said on Friday, in the third mass killing in the region since 2018.
“It was really scary, dead fish everywhere as far as you could see,” Menindi local Graeme McRabb told AFP.
“It’s surreal to understand,” he said, adding that this year’s fish kills appear to be worse than in previous years.
“The impact on the environment is unfathomable.”
Fish such as boney herring and carp, which prospered in the river following the recent floods, are now dying in large numbers as the floodwaters recede, according to the state government.
“The deaths of these fish are related to the low oxygen levels (hypoxia) in the water when the water receded,” the government said in a statement.
“The current hot weather in the region also exacerbates hypoxia because warmer water contains less oxygen than colder water, and fish have a higher oxygen demand at warmer temperatures.”
The previous fish kill in Menindee, about 12 hours west of Sydney, was blamed on a prolonged drought that left rivers short of water and a toxic algal bloom stretching more than 40 kilometers (24 miles).
“Unfortunately, it won’t be the last time,” the NSW government warned in 2019.
State Government fisheries spokesman Cameron Lay said it was “visual” to see the river choked with dead fish.
“We’re seeing tens of kilometers out, there’s really fish as far as the eye can see, so it’s a pretty confrontational scene,” he told the ABC.
Menindee, with a population of around 500, has been ravaged by drought and flooding in recent years.
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