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River refuges could mitigate scale of heatwave fish deaths

Installing aerators in Australia’s drought-stressed rivers could create refuges for native fish and prevent mass deaths from algal blooms and lack of oxygen, a New South Wales academic has said.

Robyn Watts, a river ecologist at Charles Sturt University in Albury, says the aerators were used successfully in 2016 by farmers and community groups dealing with low levels of dissolved oxygen in the Murray River.

Her comments follow the mass deaths of thousands of native fish, chiefly Murray cod, in the Darling River and Menindee Lakes in NSW due to algal blooms caused by a summer heatwave. The incidents have led to calls for a national inquiry into river management amid allegations of corruption by state and federal water agencies.

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