Environment Animals

New South Wales

The massacre of fish filmed by the drone

Hundreds of thousands in an Australian river


Reuters / Australian Broadcasting Corporation

Hundreds of thousands of dead and decaying fish have clogged a vast stretch of river near a remote Australian outback town, as a scorching heatwave sweeps through the region. Videos posted on social media show boats plying a blanket of dead fish choking the water, with the surface barely visible beneath it. The New South Wales government said "millions" of fish had died in the Darling River near the town of Menindee, in the third mass slaughter to hit the area since 2018.

"It's really horrible, there are dead fish as far as the eye can see," Menindee resident Graeme McCrabb told AFP. "It's surreal to understand," he said, adding that this year's fish die-off appears to be worse than previous ones. "The environmental impact is unfathomable."

According to the state government, populations of fish such as herring and carp had increased dramatically in the river following the recent floods, but are now dying in large numbers as the waters retreat.

"The fish die-off is linked to low oxygen levels in the water (hypoxia), which occur as flood waters recede," the government said in a statement. "The current warm climate in the region is also exacerbating hypoxia, as warmer water retains less oxygen than cold water, and fish have a higher need for oxygen at higher temperatures."

Previous fish deaths in Menindee - about a 12-hour drive west of Sydney - have been attributed to a lack of water in the river due to prolonged drought and a toxic algal bloom that extended for 40 kilometers.