Thousands of dead fish found washed up on the banks of Lake Inverell will be removed immediately by NSW Fisheries officers and local council workers.
Inverell Shire mayor Paul Harmon said a combination of extreme drought conditions, high temperatures and a build-up of nutrients created the perfect storm for blue-green algae.
“Unfortunately blue-green algae is an oxygen thief and sucks oxygen from the water. When NSW Fisheries tested the water at Lake Inverell, the oxygen level was half of what it needed to be for fish to survive,” he said.
Council staff and Fisheries officers will work to remove the thousands of fish, mainly juveniles between 2cm and 10cm in length, from the Lake.
Concerns have arisen as to how staff will be able to access and clean certain areas with thick reeds.
“Parts of the Lake will be more difficult to capture and clean all of those dead fish, particularly the smaller fish,” Mr Harmon said.
DPI, WaterNSW and Inverell council are monitoring the situation collaboratively as residents report sightings of larger fish being affected upstream.
Mr Harmon said he knew some residents suggested using water aerators but added he would have to rely on an expert opinion as to whether the idea would work effectively.
“What we desperately need is some good, steady rain that actually creates a flow in the river, not just a little flow either; a good quality flow to create the oxygen really needed.
“At the moment we’re focused on mitigating any more fish losses,” he said.
Mr Harmon was pleased, however, to see community members concerned and passionate about the health of the river system.
Council has committed to a re-stocking program once favourable conditions return to Lake Inverell and the Macintyre River.
“We will be in contact with all fishing clubs in Inverell and proactively, for a number of years, we’ve run a re-stocking program for Lake Inverell.
“Council will again do that when conditions are back to normal and we will look at increasing our contribution this time around,” he said.