'Please Don't Forget Us': Farmer's Heartbreaking Plea Ahead Of More Fish Deaths
"Please don't forget us."
That was the heartbreaking plea from New South Wales farmer Rob McBride on the banks of the Darling River, where the smell of decay lingers in the air.
Last week, a video of McBride and his mate Dick Arnold went viral as the pair cradled critically-endangered Murray cod at Menindee, where up to one million fish washed up dead.
"You'd come around a corner and there'd be tens of thousands of dead fish in one particular point," he told The Project on Sunday.
"You could almost walk across the water with dead fish... [it was] absolutely soul-destroying."
Now, as state and federal water managers prepare for an emergency meeting to canvass options to mitigate the ecological disaster, McBride begged Australians to stay on top of this issue.
"Please get involved," he told The Project, his voice breaking.
"This is your country. We are pretty proud of it. We can't fight alone. Please, don't forget us."
Minister for Agriculture and Water David Littleproud described the fish deaths as horrible, joining his state counterpart Niall Blair in warning of more devastation.
"I'm advised there is a high likelihood of more fish kills very soon," Littleproud said in a statement on Monday.
The federal government wants states to agree to use $5 million from the Murray-Darling Basin funds for a strategy to look after native fish.
Littleproud has asked the Murray-Darling Basin Authority to convene a meeting of state and federal water managers and environmental water holders this week.
The meeting will look at the immediate risk of further fish kills and how to mitigate that possibility, including through the release of environmental water.
Stakeholders will also review state and federal watering priorities to see if changes are needed.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he was concerned some may attempt to "play politics" with the bipartisan Murray-Darling Basin Plan.
"It's a devastating ecological event," Morrison told the ABC on Monday.
"For those who live all throughout the region, just the sheer visual image of this is terribly upsetting."
Labor wants an emergency task force to investigate how and why the fish died, including the potential impact of agricultural chemicals like fertiliser.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten also wants it to look at whether water diversions or management in the Murray-Darling system made the disaster worse.
Scientists argue mismanagement of the river system is to blame, but the NSW government insists the devastating drought gripping the state is a key factor.
"We've had 100 percent of NSW in drought, and one of the outcomes is that we don't see the rivers flowing naturally like they should be," NSW Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair told The Project.
"That does lead to poor water quality and the build up of things like blue-green algae."
But Shorten had a different view.
"Drought is a natural event. Blue green algae outbreaks and fish kills of this scale are not natural events," he wrote in a letter to the prime minister.
Littleproud and Morrison pointed to barren conditions as the central factor behind the fish deaths.
"The reality is we're in a serious drought and the only silver bullet is rain," Littleproud said.
Featured image: The Project