"Unparalleled" climate conditions responsible for fish deaths in Australian river: government report

Source: Xinhua| 2019-02-22 09:01:37|Editor: Xiaoxia
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CANBERRA, Feb. 22 (Xinhua) -- "Exceptional climatic conditions" were responsible for the deaths of millions of fish in an Australian river, a government report has found.

The government on Thursday night tabled its own report into three major fish kills in New South Wales' Darling River in December and January.

It included 20 recommendations for the management of the river system going forward, including better water monitoring.

The report, compiled by a panel chaired by Professor Rob Vertessy from the University of Melbourne, found "exceptional climatic conditions, unparalleled in the observed climate record" were responsible for the fish deaths.

"Recent extreme weather events in the northern Basin have been amplified by climate change," it said.

"Future changes in the global climate system are likely to have a profound impact on the hydrology and ecology of the Murray-Darling Basin and exacerbate the risk of fish deaths."

Responding to the report, Water Minister David Littleproud committed to urgent works in the river and announced three million Australian dollars in funding for fish research.

"I welcome the findings of the independent panel and will begin work in response immediately, including on allowing fish to move more freely around the river system," he told reporters in Canberra.

The government's report was released only days after the Australian Academy of Science published its own report into the incident, which was compiled at the request of the Opposition Australian Labor Party (ALP).

That report found "excess" upstream irrigation, drought and "insufficient flows" were responsible for the kills, which all occurred in a 40-km stretch of the Darling near Menindee, more than 900 km west of Sydney.

"Our review of the fish kills found there isn't enough water in the Darling system to avoid catastrophic outcomes," Craig Moritz, chair of the panel responsible for the report, told reporters on Monday.

"This is partly due to the ongoing drought. However, analysis of rainfall and river flow data over decades points to excess water extraction upstream."