A massive fish kill near a small community in the Australian outback is currently causing horror. According to the government of the state of New South Wales, "millions of fish" have already died in the Darling River near Menindee. Videos on the online networks showed boats plowing through a dense carpet of dead fish, under which the river water is barely visible.

"It's horrible – as far as you can see, just dead fish," local resident Graeme McCrabb told AFP. It has never been so bad, he said, adding: "The impact on the environment is unimaginable." The smell in the vicinity could be thought of as letting a fish rot in the kitchen, "when all the doors are closed and there is no air conditioning, and we have millions of them," McCrabb told the BBC.

After recent flooding in the region, fish stocks in the river had risen sharply. But now there is an enormous heat wave again, the water levels are dropping rapidly and the fish are dying.

According to the government, fish kills are related to low oxygen levels in the water (hypoxia) when flooding waters recede. The current heat wave in the region exacerbates the situation, as warmer water contains less oxygen, but at the same time the fish have a higher oxygen demand at higher temperatures.

Already the third major fish kill in the region

It is already the third time that the region around Menindee has been affected by a massive fish die-off. The previous time in 2019, the lack of water in the river due to prolonged drought and a toxic algal bloom were considered to be the cause. Even then, the government of New South Wales warned that it would not be the last fish kills.

The spokesman for the authority responsible for fisheries, Cameron Lay, spoke of a "horrific scene". Over dozens of kilometers, "as far as the eye can see," there are only dead fish, Lay told the Australian broadcaster ABC. Menindee with its almost 500 inhabitants is about twelve hours drive from Sydney. In recent years, it has been repeatedly affected by extreme drought and then again by floods.