SYDNEY, Sept. 9 (Xinhua) -- The Australian state of New South Wales (NSW) has begun its largest ever fish rescue and restocking program on Monday, with specialist teams embarking on a two-week operation in the Darling River at Menindee.
Located about 1,150 km northwest of Sydney, the regional community was devastated back in January when around one million fish were found dead in a 40-km stretch of water.
"We're staring down the barrel of a potential fish Armageddon, which is why we're wasting little time rolling out this unprecedented action," NSW Minister for Agriculture Adam Marshall said.
"By starting this operation today, we're getting on the front foot while we still have the chance to rescue and relocate as many fish as possible."
Caused by a build-up of toxic blue green algae, rapid temperature changes saw aquatic plants in the river system die out.
When this happened, the organic material decomposed drawing a vast amount of oxygen from the water and causing any fish in the vicinity to suffocate.
To counteract the ecological disaster, the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) fisheries scientists have started rescuing fish contained within drying pools that are not expected to last through the summer due to prolonged dry conditions.
Under the 10 million Australian dollars (6.8 million U.S. dollars) strategy, these fish will be relocated downstream to a section of the Lower Darling, which authorities believe will offer a more secure habitat.
"By moving these (native) fish, such as Murray Cod and Golden Perch, we're providing the best possible chance of survival," Marshall said.
"With record low rainfall and high temperatures predicted over the coming months, this action will help protect our iconic species in the midst of the worst drought on record."
"When flows do return to normal, the fish will be able to migrate to their 'homes' back upstream, without the need for additional intervention."