Govt ‘all talk, no action’ over Ballina fish kills

Fish are already dying as a result of the recent wet weather, which has resulted in de-oxygenated water flowing into local river systems. (supplied)

A fish kill in Tallow Creek last year. Rous County Council has warned a massive fish kill is likely in the Richmond River as blackwater leaches out of the former Tuckean Swamp. Photo supplied

The opposition yesterday criticised the state government in parliament for failing to take action over the cause of continuing fish kills in the Richmond River catchment over recent years.

Labor has called on the government to look at a longer-term solution to recurring outbreaks of blackwater in northern NSW rivers.

A $1.5 million 2012 grant to combat deoxygenation during summer floods, when blackwater drains from key wetlands such as the Tuckean, Bungawalbin and Rocky Mouth Creek backswamps, has identified the problem and ways to address it but action is still some way off..

Yesterday Rous County Council warned a further fish kill was imminent following extensive flooding of the former Tuckean Swamp and Bungawalbin areas last week.

In response to a question from the opposition in parliament yesterday, ‘the minister gave a lecture on the science behind fish kills, but failed to explain what the government was doing to address this recurring problem,’ according to shadow primary industries minister Mick Veitch

He added that primary industries minister Niall Blair merely said the department was ‘monitoring the situation’.

‘The response showed that little had been done since the last outbreak of blackwater,’ Mr Veitch said.

‘The potential outbreak of blackwater is devastating for the environment and the community.

‘The NSW Government needs to come up with a long-term plan to try to ensure these recurring events are less likely.

‘Fish kills not only affect the environment but can have a real negative impact of local fishers and tourism.

‘Rather than simply investigating fish kills year in and year out, the government must be proactive and tackle the causes of these all too regular events along coastal riverways,’ Mr Veitch said.

Blackwater is deoxygenated water and can result in fish kills. The bulk of blackwater is organic, which is produced when introduced dryland grasses or crops are inundated by floodwater during major summer floods.

The grasses and crops die and are decomposed by bacteria that can consume all the available oxygen in the water. The blackwater is then transported via the drainage system to the river where fish may become trapped and unable to escape to the ocean.

Blackwater is more of a problem in summer due to the larger amount of organic biomass available and warmer water allowing increased bacterial action.

Restoration of wetlands – such as the Tuckean Swamp – adjoining the Richmond River would assist in addressing recurring outbreaks.


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