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'It's At Crisis Point': Angry Angler Shares Punishing Poem After Fish Kills

A Dubbo man has made a passionate plea for improved water management after multiple, large-scale fish kills in the region are said to have decimated native fish, some up to 40 years old.

For weeks the President of Inland Waterways Ozfish, Matt Hansen, has been sharing vision of fish kills in the Macquarie River near Dubbo, among others in NSW river systems.

“A fish kill is a large-scale event that sees every type of fish in the river basically curl up and die," Hansen told 10 daily.

"Our kills have been a result of black water, organic events, dissolved oxygen and diminished water quality across 100km of river."

Hansen believes it is 'day zero' for native fish. Image: Matt Hansen

While fish kills are natural events, Hansen believes their now regular occurrence marks ‘day zero’ for native fish.

“These native fish can’t be replaced overnight, it’ll take decades,” he said.

“We estimate some of the fish are up to 40 years of age and when you see fish in the river older than I am, dying on mass, you know something is very, very wrong.”

A WaterNSW spokesperson said they are working with government agencies including DPI fisheries, to "mitigate the impacts of drought on native fish species and the environment".

"Impacted rivers have been surveyed and refuge pools identified, environmental releases are factored into dam releases where sufficient water remains to do so, and aerators have been placed in significant fish refuge sites to sustain oxygen levels."

National

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However, Hansen doesn't believe drought is solely to blame as native fish populations have declined by up to 90 percent since European settlement.

“I think it’s at a crisis point because of decades of problems with water extractions and agricultural methods and year after year of mismanagement across the system.

It's estimated some of the fish killed were four decades old. Image: Tom Saunders

“Because of barriers to fish passage like weirs and dams, it means our strongholds of fish that have survived can no longer repopulate the areas that have seen fish killed.”

Hansen fears flow-on effects will soon be felt as native fish are “part of our cultural fabric” and play important parts within society.

Healthy rivers mean healthy regional economies

“In NSW alone it’s a 1.6 billion industry, 14,000 full time jobs interstate and international tourism and is an incredible economic driver," he said.

“The pilgrimages of fishers out to places like Bourke that could be lost and would affect the servos, the accommodation, the shops, the restaurants…it’s so sad.”

Turning to bush poetry, Hansen sent out a passionate plea for change on social media, which you can watch at the top of this article.

“We need to start looking after our fish better than we ever have before,” he said.

“We need to open fish passage and plant more trees on the river bans to stop sediment pouring into our waterways.

Hansen said there have been three fish kills over six days in the Macquarie River. Image: Tom Saunders

“We can strategically manage agriculture along our riverbanks to build a happy and productive relationship.”

Although promised fishways in the region to improve fish travel are no closer to being implemented.

"In response to the escalating cost of fish passage offset projects associated with dam safety upgrades, projects were put on hold in 2014 by the NSW Government until the least cost means of providing fish passage could be identified," a WaterNSW spokesperson said.

Fish kills in NSW should be reported to the Fishers Watch Hotline on 1800 043 536.