THE NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) is keeping “a close watch” on native fish in Keepit Dam, after a mass death of golden perch and Murray cod.
A DPI spokesman said Fisheries officers had investigated reports of the deaths at the weekend, and estimated about 100 fish had died.
“There are ongoing concerns for further fish kills as hot, dry and very low water levels persist across most of NSW,” he said.
The Keepit kill came despite the installation of two aeration units in the past fortnight.
“DPI is assessing all potential response options to fish kills in NSW, including aeration, [but] these devices will at best only create localised refuge and will not prevent further fish kills,” the spokesman said.
After claims the kill came because too little water had been left in the lake, WaterNSW said it was due to the Namoi Valley being one of the worst-affected regions in one of the worst droughts on record.
“What we are seeing at Lake Keepit is the result of severe and prolonged drought,” system operation executive manager Adrian Langdon said.
“Record low inflows into northern NSW rivers over the past two years have resulted in many waterways ceasing to flow, with climbing summer evaporation rates placing further pressure on falling supplies.
“The Namoi river systems can typically expect an average of approximately 870 gigalitres of annual inflows, according to long term data.
“In 2017/18, Namoi only received 60GL of inflows and, in the first six months of 2018-19, these rivers received only 11GL.
“WaterNSW has been managing the releases from Keepit to maintain flows along the Namoi to meet environmental, town, stock and domestic and irrigation demand.
“Without these releases the river system would have run dry two years ago.”
Fishing club president Anne Michie said the fish would have been decades old and the situation was “quite horrible” to witness.
Meanwhile, the club has called off its yearly pest-species cull, Carp We Don’t Keepit, along with any of its own fishing activities, to avoid putting more pressure on the native species.