Action to protect native fish ahead of hot, dry summer

14 October 2019
  • Government releases Native Fish Emergency Response Plan
  • More fish deaths are likely due to the expected hot and dry summer
  • Measures will help native fish repopulate when conditions improve

The Federal Government is working with the states to protect the Murray–Darling Basin’s native fish ahead of an expected hot and dry summer.

Minister for Drought David Littleproud released the Native Fish Emergency Response Plan.
 
“Make no mistake, we are likely to see fish deaths this summer,” Minister Littleproud said.
 
“We’re facing another hot summer with very little water flowing through our rivers.
 
“This plan will give the MDBA and the states vital tools to help protect fish populations. 
 
“The Federal Government has money put aside for fish-death prevention measures and environmental water holders will replenish areas on red alert, where they can.
 
“Fish deaths are common during summer but what we saw last year were a major wake-up call about the impact of the drought on our rivers.
 
“After the Vertessy Review we have put an emergency plan in place.
 
“The plan will see more activity in high risk areas, with aerators, fish relocated and algae blooms watched closely.
 
“The last Northern Basin environmental watering program refreshed waterholes and fish refuges although there is little environmental water left.
 
“NSW emergency measures have seen fish relocated so they survive this summer and re-populate the rivers when conditions improve.
 
“The Commonwealth is also bringing government officials and experts together this month to coordinate plans and identify areas at high risk of fish deaths.
 
“Communities too have their part to play and we also ask the community to report river conditions and fish deaths to help with fish relocations and recovery.
 
“We want native river fish such as the Murray cod, silver perch and golden perch to have the best chance of surviving this summer.
 
“We want healthy and thriving fish populations in our rivers during drought and in the good times.”

The Emergency Response Plan is available at mdba.gov.au/native-fish-plan

Background
 
Under the Native Fish Emergency Response Plan, the Commonwealth Government will: 

  • Provide emergency funds from the Emergency Contingency Fund to help states manage urgent and extreme fish death events, with $300,000 set aside.
  • Provide available Commonwealth environmental water to mitigate fish deaths.
  • Support the coordination of emergency response activities and sharing of resources.
  • Maintain a database of significant fish deaths events.
  • Contribute to water quality monitoring programs to identify areas at risk.

In return, the states will:

  • Identify and monitor high risk sites for fish deaths.
  • Identify priority refuge areas for native fish.
  • Prepare on-ground emergency response plans for priority species and areas. 

Members of the community should report mass fish deaths to:

New South Wales: Fishers Watch – 1800 043 536
Victoria: EPA Pollution Hotline – 1300 372 842
South Australia: Fishwatch Hotline – 1800 065 522
Queensland: Department of Environment and Science – 1300 130 372
ACT: Access Canberra – 13 22 81