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Byron Shire
April 19, 2021

Deliberate fish kill in Tallow Creek?

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Thousands of dead fish and water lives lost after Council opened up Tallow Creek. Photo supplied.

Council at work opening Tallow Creek. Photo supplied.

We’re always ready to look west to the Darling River and point our fingers at irrigators, but local conservationist Dailan Pugh says a ‘deliberate and callous’ act by the Byron Shire Council last week (opening the estuary mouth at a time when a massive fish kill would be the inevitable consequence) has seen the death of thousands of fish in Tallow Creek.

‘At the time there was no rain and thus it was certain that without inflows of fresh oxygenated water, the draining would result in water becoming deoxygenated and fish suffocating,’ says Pugh. ‘This has occurred time and time again.’

Mr Pugh says that as recently as March 1, Byron Shire Council killed thousands of fish in Belongil Creek when they opened it without rain.

Rescuing fish at Tallow Creek. Photo supplied.

He says on Saturday morning the inevitable consequences of the Tallow Creek opening were obvious with thousands of mullet, bream, whiting, flathead and eels dead on the banks and gasping for air in the shallows. ‘Counting all the fry, over a million fish were killed.’

Pugh says Byron Shire Council were nowhere to be seen, ‘Despite it being a Marine Park, the Marine Parks Authority were AWOL. The consequences were predictable but they simply couldn’t care less.’

With the help of the NPWS, locals chipped in with nets, buckets and a wheelbarrow to rescue over a thousand fish trapped in a rapidly drying pool.

An eel in Tallow Creek. photo supplied.

‘You would have thought that with all the millions of fish killed by estuary openings over the years that there would be monitoring and an emergency response process by now.

‘Opening the Tallow Creek estuary this time was a deliberate act with a fish kill inevitable, and yet those responsible made no attempt whatsoever to monitor the kill or intervene to stop the pain and suffering of so many fish.

‘It was a deliberate and callous act of environmental vandalism. Someone should be prosecuted.’

Pugh claims it is clear that Council’s strategy of opening the estuary when it reaches a pre-defined height irrespective of the likelihood of fish kills needs to be rethought. ‘Council also needs to take into account sea-level rises due to climate heating to develop a long term humane strategy’.

WARNING: The following video shows dead and dying animals in Tallow Creek.


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13 COMMENTS

  1. How tragic. Our blessed green council committing deliberate environmental carnage. If only they could have waited a bit longer the creek would have naturally dealt with it. I hope those few residents who didn’t want to get their feet wet are happy now.

  2. where’s the accountability for this appalling action by the council. Head should be rolling from the GM down.
    Unacceptable.

  3. Byron Shire Council Submission on the Draft Belongil Opening Strategy due by 30th June. Suggest Submission with a bucket of dead fish submitted to the front counter of the Council building.

  4. This is a very concerning trend by a council that has opted for even more developmentNT in the old South Byron Treatment Works which are in close proximity and interconnected. Surely this should be ringing alarm bells to all that it is a very bad idea. It should immediately be stopped and proposals to create conservation zones re looked at. This type of fish kill is as predictable as it is inevitable. It is not the solution

  5. On Monday I walked around sections of Tallow Creek and was appalled and disgusted at the thousands of dead fish on the banks. Numerous sea birds attracted by the carnage had already had their fill. The stench created was particularly bad in in the upper reaches of the creek. The smell would be permeating into the few houses which have their backyards inundated with water. In 30 years of observing this creek, I have never seen it so low.

    I am also appalled, disgusted and angry at the mismanagement of the creek opening by Byron Council. Listen to the ecologists, Council, so that this catastrophe is not repeated.

  6. The Tallow policy is outdated. The catchment stormwater works are incomplete. The climate change impacts are already affecting these sensiitive Tallow and Belongil ICOLLS. Likely first step is a moratorium on opening and then revision of mangement based on new investigations of places as well as education of community about living with unmodified ICOLLS in the 21st century…

  7. Council and it’s employees are fully aware of the consequences of opening estuary mouths, and do so knowing there will be fish mortality. Do they care?

  8. What is a bit baffling about this event is that Council opened the creek mouth to the ocean a few weeks ago and this worked really well, lowering the water level by 200-300mm which prevented (delayed) an overflow which might have resulted in the creek emptying into the ocean. It should have been left alone but somehow a decision was made to have another go which resulted in…

  9. Heartbreaking! truly! More money does not fix this kind of disaster.Neither does an increasing people population with all the necessary safety measures at the expense of the environment.This scenario will inevitably get worse around the shire with development.

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