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Monday, March 20th

Millions of rotting fish to be removed from Outback river

Thousands of dead fish that have washed along the Darling River at the Menindee lakes, in outback New South Wales, Australia, Sunday, March 19, 2023. The Department of Primary Industries in New South Wales state said the fish deaths coincided with a heat wave that put stress on a system that has experienced extreme conditions from wide-scale flooding. (Samara Anderson/AAP Image via AP)

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) - Contractors are being hired to remove millions of rotting fish from a river in the Australian Outback after a unprecedented die-off following floods and hot weather, police said on Monday.

The fish started dying in the Darling River near the New South Wales town of Menindee on Friday. Officials say the die-off likely occurred because fish need more oxygen in hot weather, but oxygen levels in the water dropped after recent floods receded.

Police Assistant Commissioner Brett Greentree said keeping the town's water supply pure was the main priority and removing the dead fish was the next most pressing issue. Trained contractors had been contacted about removing the fish with nets, but dates for the work haven't been set.

"I'm certainly not making promises that all the millions of fish will be removed by contractors because that is really a logistical nightmare," Greentree said.

"I understand and acknowledge the smell and sights on the river - nobody wants to see that," he added.

Dead fish float along the Darling River near Menindee, Australia, Sunday, March 19, 2023. Specialist contractors will remove millions of rotting fish from an Outback river after an unprecedented die-off caused by depleted oxygen levels due to recent floods and hot weather, police said on Monday, March 20, 2023. (Samara Anderson/AAP Image via AP)

Authorities were supplying potable water to residents who rely on river water, which was continually being monitored for quality, Greentree said.

Mass fish kills have been reported on the Darling River in recent weeks. Tens of thousands of fish were found at the same spot in late February, while there have been several reports of dead fish downstream toward Pooncarie, near the borders of South Australia and Victoria states.

Enormous fish kills also occurred on the river at Menindee during severe drought conditions in late 2018 and early 2019.

Greentree said the current death toll appeared to be far larger than the events in 2018 and 2019.

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Find more AP Asia-Pacific coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/asia-pacific

Dead fish lay on the bank of the Darling River near Menindee, Australia, Sunday, March 19, 2023. Specialist contractors will remove millions of rotting fish from an Outback river after an unprecedented die-off caused by depleted oxygen levels due to recent floods and hot weather, police said on Monday, March 20, 2023. (Samara Anderson/AAP Image via AP)

Dead fish float along the Darling River near Menindee, Australia, Sunday, March 19, 2023. Specialist contractors will remove millions of rotting fish from an Outback river after an unprecedented die-off caused by depleted oxygen levels due to recent floods and hot weather, police said on Monday, March 20, 2023. (Samara Anderson/AAP Image via AP)

Thousands of dead fish that have washed along the Darling River at the Menindee lakes, in outback New South Wales, Australia, Sunday, March 19, 2023. The Department of Primary Industries in New South Wales state said the fish deaths coincided with a heat wave that put stress on a system that has experienced extreme conditions from wide-scale flooding. (Samara Anderson/AAP Image via AP)