Barra 'tragedy': thousands of fish die

SEVERAL thousand Territory barramundi have died in the cold miserable winter weather of southern Australia.

Victoria Fisheries Authority confirmed all but 1500 of the 7,000 fish dropped into a discharge pond connected to the now defunct Hazelwood power plant late last year have died.

Winter water temperatures dropped to 12C - less than half of the desired 26C to 32C temperature range the native Northern Territory fish prefer.

Remarkably, a spokesman for Victoria Fisheries still described the manipulation of mother nature a success.

"Some barramundi stranded in the cold water section of the pondage died when water temperatures approached 12C. We estimate at least 1,500 fish (could still be there) but there could be more," he said.

"The barramundi fishery at Hazelwood has been a great success. It's created exciting new fishing opportunities, attracting thousands of anglers that contributed more than $700,000 to the Latrobe Valley economy."

The unedifying death of a Territory icon for the sake of providing a cheap fishing thrill to Victorian amateurs has annoyed local experts.

Humpty Doo Barramundi general manager Dan Richards joined local fishing legend and NT News columnist Alex Julius in expressing their dismay at the outcome.

Mr Richards, who manages 1.7 million barramundi at his farm, said the fish won't eat when the water temperature drops below 26C.

"This sounds to me, as subjective as it is, like bad planning," he said.

"Barra don't belong in Victoria. Our farm is in their spiritual home on the Adelaide River so we don't have to do much to keep them alive."

Mr Julius said the plan was destined to fail. He said they should have concentrated on stocking the pond with Murray cod or trout.

"It's North Australia's premier native sporting fish," he said. "It's not meant to live where Mexicans live.

Mr Julius questioned if Victorian fishermen had the skills to catch barra.

"Stocking that pond was only going to cater for a tiny minority of amateur fishermen who don't have the skills to catch barramundi anyway," he said.

"If you want to catch a real barramundi, then you have to come to North Australia and the best place to do that is here in the Territory, which is the barramundi's home."

News Corp Australia

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