How fish kills affected traditional (Baakandji) and non-traditional communities on the Lower Darling-Baaka River

Iain Ellis, William Bates, Sarah Martin, Graeme McCrabb, John Koehn, Peter Heath, Derek Hardman

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    In the summer of 2018-19 mass fish kills occurred in the Lower Darling (Baaka) River in south-eastern Australia. The fish kills received national and international attention and have been the focus of numerous government agency and independent assessments. Although fish kills have previously been recorded in the Lower Darling region, the size and rapid succession of the 2018-19 'Menindee' fish kills made them unprecedented in the Murray-Darling Basin, placing significant pressure on the native fish community. Although the deaths of millions of fish were documented, the significant negative effect that the fish kills had on local communities, particularly the traditional Baakandji people, was largely ignored. The social and cultural aspects of such events can have major non-economic effects on local communities. In this paper we document heart-felt feelings conveyed by local community members. Their sense of loss, despair and helplessness is compounded by frustration regarding water management and policy decision making in the Murray-Darling Basin. However, these tragic events have increased understanding of traditional Baakandji connection to the river and its fish and, together with local recovery efforts, now provide prospects for enhanced community and agency cooperation to improve the health of the lower Darling Baaka River and restore its native fish populations.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)259-268
    Number of pages10
    JournalMarine and Freshwater Research
    Issue number2
    Early online date13 Sep 2021
    Publication statusPublished - 2022


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