Response to Chief Scientist report on fish deaths

The NSW Government welcomes the findings of the Independent Review by the Office of the Chief Scientist & Engineer (OCSE) into the deaths of millions of fish along the Darling-Baaka River near Menindee earlier this year.

Minister for Water Rose Jackson said the report confirms the disaster in March 2023 was likely caused by hypoxia and provides a range of findings and recommendations which we accept and will implement to reduce the likelihood of major fish death events in the future.

“We have been listening carefully to the experts every step of the way, which is why we are taking these findings very seriously, Ms Jackson said.

“We are grateful for the work and insight the local community have put into this report and we remain committed to communicating with openness and transparency with the Menindee community.

“Now that we have the initial report, we can get on with the job of addressing gaps in the system that were left unresolved for years by the former government.

“We want to mitigate the risk of another catastrophic fish kill, prior to receiving this report the NSW Government have already made progress towards some of the recommendations but there is a lot of work to do.”

Work already underway to address the report’s recommendations includes:

  • continuing our active management of flows from the Menindee Lakes to maintain dissolved oxygen at good levels for fish;
  • upgrading water quality monitoring including additional remote dissolved oxygen sensors;
  • exploring funding options with the Commonwealth for fish passage projects;
  • improving river connectivity through actions identified in the Western Regional Water Strategy;
  • updated water sharing plans and
  • established an Expert Panel on connectivity in the Barwon Darling River.

Minister for the Environment Penny Sharpe said all avenues were being explored to put NSW in a stronger position to improve the health of the river system and its native fish.

“My first action after being sworn into office in March 2023 was to get out on the ground in Menindee to hear directly from locals who had experienced this distressing event less than four years after the previous major fish kill,” Ms Sharpe said.

“We stood on the banks of the Darling-Baaka river and called for a robust, impartial and independent inquiry to ensure no stone was left unturned in finding out where we can do better, so I want to thank Professor Hugh Durrant-Whyte and his team because that is exactly what has been delivered.”

Several state and Commonwealth agencies including the Department of Planning and Environment, the Department of Primary Industries and the Environment Protection Authority provided input into the Independent Review by the Office of the Chief Scientist and Engineer.