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Ash and debris from bushfires could harm fish species

By Rodney Woods

Freshwater fish species could be under threat due to ash and debris from the bushfires, senior bureaucrats fear.

Threatened Species Scientific Committee chair Helene Marsh said she was concerned for "a lot" of animals and plants after the fires, including numerous birds, the yellow-bellied glider, frogs and fish.

“There are a number of species we thought were secure in the past but their conservation status is questioned,” Professor Marsh said.

“We are very concerned about the status of our freshwater fish because they have also been impacted by the fires, because of the ash and debris that have washed into our freshwater streams.

“Fish recently died in the Murray-Darling Basin after much-needed rain washed ash into waterways amid the bushfire crisis and ongoing drought.

“The fish were killed in the Macquarie River, the Namoi, Gwydir, Border rivers, Barwon-Darling, Lachlan, Upper Murray and Murrumbidgee rivers.”

That came after an estimated one million fish died in the Darling River near the NSW town of Menindee last summer in multiple kills in the drought-ravaged waterway.

The Federal Government has put an initial $50 million into a wildlife and habitat recovery package after the bushfires.

The Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment last month released a list of 113 animal species that need urgent help to survive in the wake of the fires.

The provisional list includes 13 birds, 19 mammals, 20 reptiles, 17 frogs, five invertebrates, 22 spiny crayfish and 17 freshwater fish species.

Prof Marsh said it was still very early days for understanding the full impact of the fires, as some blaze-hit areas were still unsafe for people to get to.