'One million' fish die in Australian river in 'ecological catastrophe'

Millions of fish have died after a blue-green algae event blamed on a lack of water

Millions of fish have died after a blue-green algae event blamed on a lack of water

"We're working through it as fast as we can to see what solutions we can contribute towards and I commend him [Blair] for being on the ground", she said.

Blair said this week he had met with residents in Menindee but bypassed the gathering on the town's main boat ramp on security advice.

"The recent fish deaths in the Barwon-Darling river system at Menindee was a devastating sight".

Cotton Australia said drought was affecting the river system and that the industry was also suffering, forecasting its crop this season would be half of the previous year's. One video posted to Facebook by local grazier Rob McBride and a friend holding dead Murray cod has attracted millions of views. The latest fish die-off, along with other signs of wildlife and human populations hard hit by drought and heat, add to the likelihood that water will feature in this year's coming federal and NSW state elections.

The immediate cause of the mass fish kill is believed to be a sudden drop in temperature that killed algal blooms in the water, depleting it of oxygen and causing fish to die.

"The scale of this disaster is extraordinary and unprecedented", the opposition leader said in a statement. "We've spent decades and $13 billion only to end up with ecological tragedy in our rivers". He added the SDL project at Menindee, which aims to save 105 gigalitres a water a year, must proceed.

"They don't understand what it would mean [to cancel it]", Blair says, of the NSW Labor stance. "You would blow up the [Murray-Darling Basin] Plan".

Murray Cod Australia says no effect from Darling River fish deaths

MP Mr Buckingham, a former Greens MP, Mr Buckingham travelled to Menindee, near Broken Hill on Wednesday, where he described it as "the most disgusting scene you could possibly imagine".

Michael Murray, general manager of Cotton Australia, sought to counter criticism of irrigators and his industry for the plight at Menindee, say the state's cotton output would halve this year.

"Further upstream at Dirranbandi (home of Cubbie Cotton), just 300 hectares of cotton has been planted, which is 1 per cent of what can be planted in a very good season".

The cotton industry says it is not to blame for the mass deaths of hundreds of thousands of fish in the Darling River and is exhausted of being a "whipping boy" for problems associated with the drought.

Upriver the basin is about 20% full but in the lower Darling River levels are as low as 5%, a spokeswoman for the Murray Darling Basin Authority said.

"Droughts would have contributed to the blue green algae outbreak", he said. But, as an industry, we are growing very exhausted of being "the whipping boy" for all the problems that are being brought on by this crippling drought.

Peter Hannam writes on environment issues for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.