Photographer 'disgusted' by sad find at infamous Aussie fishing spot

Last year 30 million fish died around Menindee. Yesterday a photographer stumbled upon a worrying new scene.

Three dead pelicans in the water at Lake Menindee in NSW.
Dozens of dead pelicans have been photographed on Lake Menindee. Source: Geoffrey Looney

A wildlife photographer has discovered at least 30 dead pelicans floating on one of Australia’s most well-known lakes. Images shared with Yahoo by Geoffrey Looney highlight the carnage across Lake Menindee which was once a paradise for both birdwatchers and fishermen.

Sadly, this isn't the first environmental calamity the far-west NSW outpost has suffered. Last year the town of Menindee's waters made international headlines when the Darling River became choked with 30 dead million fish which suffocated after oxygen levels plummeted during a heatwave. This week it's the Lake Menindee Inlet Regulator making the news because of concerns about water quality.

Speaking to Yahoo, Looney described his time at his beloved Lake Menindee yesterday afternoon as “distressing”, saying he would be worried about anyone fishing there or entering the water.

“I was photographing live birds and I noticed there was one dead one there so I started looking. I walked down the righthand side and I must have seen 30 pelicans dead there, and then there was more on the other side too,” he continued.

“I was pretty well disgusted.”

A live pelican in Lake Menindee in NSW.
Although there were still healthy pelicans on the lake, some appeared unwell and were unable to fly away. Source: Geoffrey Looney

Yahoo News contacted the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) to try and determine the cause of death.

Last night it said water water and dead bird samples were being collected by officers. "Water samples are being tested for a range of potential contaminants including pesticides and blue green algae," it said in a statement.

Judging from experience, another possibility is botulism, a type of bacteria that frequently kills birdlife in Australia. Last year it was suspected of causing deaths in at least three states.

While many of the pelicans were already dead, others were slowly dying. Some were reportedly struggling to keep their heads above water — symptoms consistent with botulism. With no one on site to help the dying birds, Looney worries things will get worse.

"Even the live ones were just sitting there. Normally you walk up to a bird and it will fly away. But the first one I walked up to swam away, it couldn't fly, and the second one just sat there," he said.

Although he’s still waiting on more information about the mass pelican kill, he suspects it could be linked to the release of black water by NSW authorities at Copi Hollow and the interconnecting channel into Lake Menindee.

More to come.

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