Australia

Filmmaker reveals full extent of 'ecological disaster' from NSW fish kills

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Footage released to SBS News shows the dried and decaying bodies of fish on the banks of Lake Pamamaroo near the town of Menindee.

Evidence of another mass fish kill has emerged in far western New South Wales.

Numerous decaying fish were found along the banks of Lake Pamamaroo, near the town of Menindee, the site of Australia’s largest fish kills on record between December and January. 

Filmmaker Rory McLeod said he travelled to the site after seeing aerial footage, released earlier in the week, to confirm the most recent "ecological disaster".

Filmmaker Rory McLeod shoots video of the dead fish in northern NSW.
Filmmaker Rory McLeod shoots video of the dead fish in northern NSW.
Rory McLeod / Supplied

“We weren’t really sure if we’d see anything,” he told SBS News. 

“The initial reports of this mass fish death were very sketchy, not saying that there was anything wrong with the person who provided the information, but the video was really blurry.” 

Mr McLeod said the footage is part of a documentary he’s been filming over the past year about the fish kills and the state of the Darling River called "When the River runs Dry". 

Dead fish found on the riverbank by the filmmaker pair.
Dead fish found on the riverbank by the filmmaker pair.
Supplied

“We jumped in the car and decided we had to document the fish kills when they first started happening,” he said. 

“We’re still in the process of finishing it now.” 

He was joined by anthropologist and co-filmmaker, Peter Yates, who described the scene to SBS News.

Mr Yates said at first they couldn’t see anything but were quickly greeted by the smell of rotting fish. 

“We were walking across a grey, cracked, dry lake bed and then you start to see a few birds and even with the wind at our backs you shouldn’t smell anything but we did,” he said. 

“To be honest it wasn’t as bad as I’d imagined it would be, several thousand dead fish that is, but it was still not the best day out but a very confronting sight so many big fish all dead.” 

Both believe the reason for the fish deaths was the lake drying up, rather than algal blooms and lack of fresh flows which led to the last mass fish kill. 

“What’s happened here is very different from the fish kills over the summer, the cause of this is Lake Pamamaroo being emptied and drying up,” Mr Yates said. 

Footage released to SBS News, shows the dried and decaying bodies of fish on the banks of Lake Pamamaroo near the town of Menindee.
Footage released to SBS News, shows the dried and decaying bodies of fish on the banks of Lake Pamamaroo near the town of Menindee.
Rory McLeod / Supplied

“This is a deeper part of the lake and these fish have been trapped until there was no water left. 

“The fish kills we can expect in the summer and the months to come are caused by blue-green algae and low flow conditions.” 

But Mr Yates took comfort in the fact most of the fish weren’t native to the region, although there was still a handful of Murray Cod. 

“The vast majority were carp, which are an introduced pest, so we can take heart from that.” 

The video has emerged after recent aerial footage was met with scepticism by locals and could not be confirmed by the New South Wales Department of Fisheries and the Central Darling Shire Council. 

DPI has been contacted for comment on the most recent vision filmed at Lake Pamamaroo.

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