Millions of dead and decaying fish are blocking a vast stretch of a river near a remote town in the Australian outback as a severe heat wave sweeps through the region.
Videos posted on social media showed boats wading through blankets of dead fish, leaving the surface barely visible below.
The New South Wales government said on Friday that “millions” of fish had died in the Darling River near the small town of Menindee, the third mass kill in the region since 2018.
“It’s really horrific, there’s dead fish as far as you can see,” Menindee local Graeme McCrabb told AFP.
“It’s unrealistic to understand,” he said, adding that this year’s fish die-off appeared to be worse than previous ones.
“The environmental impact is immeasurable.”
According to the state government, the population of fish like bony herring and carp had increased rapidly in the river after the recent floods, but now they are dying in large numbers due to receding flood waters.
“These fish are associated with low oxygen levels in the water (hypoxia) as floodwaters recede,” the government said in a statement.
“The current warm weather in the region is also exacerbating hypoxia, as warmer waters hold less oxygen than cooler waters, and fish require more oxygen at warmer temperatures.”
Previous fish kills in the Menindee – about 12 hours’ drive west of Sydney – have been blamed for the lack of water in the river due to a prolonged drought and a toxic algae bloom that spread up to 40 kilometers (24 mi).
“Sadly this will not be the last,” the NSW Government warned in 2019.
Cameron Lay, the state’s fisheries spokesman, said it was “difficult” to see the river blocked by dead fish.
“We’re seeing tens of kilometers away where the fish actually are as far as the eye can see, so it’s quite a conflicted view,” he told ABC.
Menindi has a population of about 500 and has been ravaged by both drought and floods in recent years.