Key steps to improve the assessment, evaluation and management of fish kills: Lessons from the Murray-Darling River system, Australia

John D. Koehn

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
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Abstract

Fish kills are very visible, with high levels of public scrutiny and major effects on populations. In 2018-19, extensive fish kills in the lower Darling River, south-eastern Australia, resulted in the deaths of millions of fish, including threatened and popular, iconic angling and important cultural species. This distressed local communities and the broader Australian society, who questioned the competence of fish and water management. Fish kills are increasing in frequency and severity, exacerbated by climate change. This paper reports on eight major fish-kill case studies across the Murray-Darling Basin that were examined to assess management adequacy. Field assessments and reporting have been poor, not documenting all species or numbers affected. Few values of fishes (cultural, conservation, recreational, social, ecological, economic) have been assessed and replacement or management costs not determined. There is a need to philosophically change our approach to take fish kills more seriously. More comprehensive approaches to assessment, evaluation and management are needed. Responsibilities for fish kills should be clarified and include water and habitat management agencies. Post-kill recovery plans that include the replacement of lost ecological assets should be published and enacted. This paper provides a fresh perspective on fish kills, with 15 key recommendations applicable to improve future management worldwide.

Original languageEnglish
JournalMarine and Freshwater Research
DOIs
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2021
Externally publishedYes

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