Action to protect native fish ahead of hot, dry summer

The Federal Government is working with the states to protect the Murray–Darling Basin’s native fish ahead of an expected hot and dry summer.

Minister for Drought David Littleproud released the Native Fish Emergency Response Plan. Make no mistake, we are likely to see fish deaths this summer,” Minister Littleproud said.

“We’re facing another hot summer with very little water flowing through our rivers. This plan will give the MDBA and the states vital tools to help protect fish populations. The Federal Government has money put aside for fish-death prevention measures and environmental water holders will replenish areas on red alert, where they can.

“Fish deaths are common during summer but what we saw last year were a major wake-up call about the impact of the drought on our rivers. After the Vertessy Review we have put an emergency plan in place.

“The plan will see more activity in high risk areas, with aerators, fish relocated and algae blooms watched closely.

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“The last Northern Basin environmental watering program refreshed waterholes and fish refuges although there is little environmental water left.

“NSW emergency measures have seen fish relocated so they survive this summer and re-populate the rivers when conditions improve.

“The Commonwealth is also bringing government officials and experts together this month to coordinate plans and identify areas at high risk of fish deaths.

“Communities too have their part to play and we also ask the community to report river conditions and fish deaths to help with fish relocations and recovery.

“We want native river fish such as the Murray cod, silver perch and golden perch to have the best chance of surviving this summer.

“We want healthy and thriving fish populations in our rivers during drought and in the good times.”

The Emergency Response Plan is available at mdba.gov.au/native-fish-plan

Background

Under the Native Fish Emergency Response Plan, the Commonwealth Government will:

  • Provide emergency funds from the Emergency Contingency Fund to help states manage urgent and extreme fish death events, with $300,000 set aside.
  • Provide available Commonwealth environmental water to mitigate fish deaths.
  • Support the coordination of emergency response activities and sharing of resources.
  • Maintain a database of significant fish deaths events.
  • Contribute to water quality monitoring programs to identify areas at risk.

In return, the states will:

  • Identify and monitor high risk sites for fish deaths.
  • Identify priority refuge areas for native fish.
  • Prepare on-ground emergency response plans for priority species and areas.

Terms of reference released for Murray Darling Basin water market

The Coalition Government has today released terms of reference for the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) inquiry into the Murray Darling Basin water market.

The inquiry, which delivers on a Coalition Government election promise, will look at options to improve the transparency and efficiency of the water market.

It will also examine changes in water use, carryover water, trade between water valleys and systems and the effect of water speculators on the market.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said that water was the lifeblood of communities in the Murray Darling Basin and it was important that the market operated in a transparent and effective manner.

“As with any market it is important to take a look at how it is performing and whether it is operating as intended and to the benefit of communities who rely on the Basin.”

Minister for Water Resources, Drought, Rural Finance, Natural Disaster and Emergency Management David Littleproud said the Government had listened to the concerns of farmers in delivering on this election commitment.

“I promised this thorough inquiry after hearing from farmers as I travelled up and down the Basin,” Minister Littleproud said.

“Farmers told me they had concerns around changes in water use, trade between valleys and the effect speculators have on the water market.

“It’s important to make sure the market is operating as intended – our regional communities depend on it. We need a transparent market in which farmers have timely access to accurate information.

“I invite farmers to participate in this inquiry.”

The Government has asked for an interim report to be delivered early in 2020 with a final report by the end of 2020.

An outline of the terms of reference for the inquiry can be found via the Treasury website.