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Byron Shire
March 8, 2021

What caused Belongil Creek fish kill?

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Some of the fish that washed up on the banks of Belongil Creek last week. Photo supplied

Mystery surrounds a large fish kill event following unknown pollution entering Belongil Creek early last week.

Both Byron Shire Council staff and the NSW Department of Primary Industry (DPI) are investigating, yet have been unable to confirm with The Echo the cause, which has seen thousands of fish die.

A resident living on the Belongil creek near the railway bridge told The Echo that since Wednesday last week, there has been noticeable pollution in the creek.

‘I haven’t seen anything like it in 21 years,’ he said.

A DPI spokesperson told The Echo DPI Fisheries staff attended Belongil Creek on Friday last week and ‘observed 100 – 1000s of fish along the waters’ edge of the creek from the railway bridge to the creek mouth.’

‘A variety of species were noted including mullet, whiting, bream, flathead, mangrove jack, trevally, milk fish, luderick, puffer fish and bullrout. The suspected cause is critically low levels of dissolved oxygen, associated with high levels of suspended sediment in the water which drained into the creek following the opening of Belongil Creek.

‘DPI Fisheries is continuing to work with Council on the event at Belongil Creek and the community is reminded to report any observations of fish kills to Fishers Watch phone line on 1800 043 536.’

Meanwhile, Council staff say they have taken water samples and sent them to a laboratory for testing. They said, ‘It is expected the results will be available in the coming week.

Staff believe this could be a natural phenomenon associated with Council’s recent opening of the estuary to the ocean which was necessary because of high water levels associated with ex tropical cyclone Oma and king tides.

‘Council has a licence from NSW Crown Lands to open the estuary to the ocean when water levels are above 1m at the Ewingsdale Bridge. The artificial opening created a rapid draw-down of water (release of water to the ocean) which could have resulted in deoxygenated water and a fish kill. The discolouration could be a result of iron bacteria.’

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  1. The fish kill is not a ‘natural phenomenon’

    Perhaps our ‘Greens’ council should be looking at a different way of managing a high water levels … ie one that won’t result in a huge fish kill.

  2. I noticed how red Belongil creek was looking last Sunday when I was going in and out of Byron. Could be an acid sulphate soil reaction.
    As acid sulphate soils are exposed to the atmosphere, or sometimes resaturated after a prolonged dry spell, the iron sulphate in the soil , which is naturally occurring in some low lying areas, causes iron oxide to turn waterways red and sulphuric acid levels to rise. The pH in Belongil Creek could be pretty low just now, resulting in the fish kill.
    If and when West Byron gets going, unless any earth works are properly remediated we could see a lot more of this

  3. Could this be associated with the clean up that is occuring from the old tip in Butler Street. ? The report of toxins from same notes highly dangerous toxins that flow into the Belongil. This is also linked to the proposed new Bus Stop development in Butler St. We can export more of the same as development of Wetlands continues. SHAME

  4. I can’t believe the fact that our council didn’t think about the affect of opening up the river would have on the ecosystem, killing fish, making the place not suitable for swimming because of the disgusting colour and smell. Honestly disappointed!


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