Dam Shame!

Everything about this journal entry tugged on my heartstrings.
@hanna76 lives on a property near Stanthorpe, Queensland. Like many Australians, she has watched as the ongoing drought has impacted her property.
Thirty-six years ago, at the time it was built, one hundred Silver Perch fingerlings were released into her dam. Hanna76 said that, “For years I've been able to count about 12 fish, but recent counts showed there were only about five fish left. Now I'm only seeing one or maybe two, and three have died in the past two months.”
When full, her dam is 5m deep (see image below), now it is knee-depth. Hanna76 commented that, “This is the lowest the dam level has been. It has never come close to this low. The former owner who had the dam built in the early 1980s, visited last year and couldn’t believe it was so empty. At that point it was about 1.5 m higher than it is now. The water is now cloudy and about a month ago began to smell exactly like silage. Seeing the visible drop in levels each week has been quite confronting. I've never seen a year like this in the twenty I've lived here.”
In recent weeks, an individual fish has sometimes been seen moving sluggishly at the surface. Hanna76 stated, “The perch must be hardy to have survived so long in probably acidic, low oxygen conditions for the past year.” When asked if she had seen conditions like this before Hanna76 asserted, “Never! Forest is dying. Creeks are dry, Rivers are dry. Dams are empty. I'm really concerned for the future of water under and in the landscape. We are all implicated in it.”
“Without water - rain, ice, aquifers, rivers, creeks, swamps, natural lakes and ponds, the vapour that a forest generates - this planet might as well be the moon. When you know that water is one of the things that will become something we fight to the death for, you realise that the fish and everything else that depends on it are helpless victims of human stupidity.”
I feel for hanna76. Not only has she had to cope with the demise of her dam and its resident fish population, but to top it all off, she is also ill with thyroid cancer. Of her illness, she boldly stated, “It's an analogy for a sick planet and fish who don’t have a choice in the matter. People and excessive consumption of energy in all its forms are the disease. We are making this happen. Climate change and dead fish are the symptoms and you can’t ignore them. The perch want to live just as we do, but they don’t hold the cards. Mind you I don’t know how conscious they are about their imminent deaths, just as we don’t seem fully yet cognizant about the end of the world as we know it.”
Hanna76, I can only try to imagine how you must feel as you watch the dam drying and the fish dying. On behalf of the Australasian Fishes community, we sincerely wish you good health, a full dam and thriving fish.

About the Silver Perch, Bidyanus bidyanus
The Silver Perch is an Australian endemic species that occurs in freshwaters of New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia and Victoria. The species account in the Australian Faunal Directory states "The species was listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN in 1996. It is listed as Threatened in Victoria, Endangered in the ACT and Protected in NSW (listed as Vulnerable) and SA. It is used for aquaculture in NSW and sold to the restaurant trade." Read more about Silver Perch on Wikipedia.
UPDATE (5 January 2020) Sadly, Hanna76's latest observation isn't pretty.
Posted on December 09, 2019 04:31 AM by markmcg markmcg


Heartbreaking. I wish we could send some of the rain we’ve been having in NZ over the Tasman to you.

Posted by lisa_bennett over 4 years ago

Thank you @lisa_bennett. We sorely need it.

Posted by markmcg over 4 years ago

Good that they have survived even this far into the drought at @hanna76 s Stanthorpe dam. In the rivers way up there the Carp would have decimated them even if the excess irrigating and turbidity from the Carp activities didn't. We are the plague though, responsible for the carp, the foxes, the cats, the greed. The planet will get rid of us eventually - for its own survival.

Posted by rushecology over 4 years ago

I counted about 24 spots of rain last night and two faint thundery noises, so perhaps Sushi and the Muddy Brown Sharks (the name my children gave to any mysterious creature that lived in water) will make it to the next season. If the dam fills, There is about 3 years of water in it, with the odd top up, before it evaporates to the level it is now. It takes only a couple of decent storms to fill due to impressive catchment and seepage from three sides. Crossed fingers.

Posted by hannatree over 4 years ago

24 spots of rain isn't going to do much, but hopefully it's a harbinger.
Funnily enough I referred an american friend today to Dorothea MacKeller's poem "My Country". I love the line "Of drought and flooding rains". She got half of it right. :(

Posted by markmcg over 4 years ago

"...of drought and bloody flames" I would have penned. :)

Posted by hannatree over 4 years ago

Much better! Very good. :)

Posted by markmcg over 4 years ago

Very good reporting Mark. Another reason the work the project participants is doing is so important. The environment changes often, and the project provides "snapshot in time" images of health of the underwater environment. This post reminded us why such snapshots are important.

Posted by harryrosenthal over 4 years ago

Indeed @harryrosenthal. I'm hoping that @hanna76 continues to add observations showing how the fish in her dam is faring.

Posted by markmcg over 4 years ago

The dam is ebbing again after briefly rising about 6 inches after a storm. Sushi is still gallantly swimming just the same as always.

Posted by hannatree over 4 years ago

Thanks for the update @hanna76. I'm delighted to hear that Sushi had reprieve. More (rain)... we need more!

Posted by markmcg over 4 years ago

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