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.
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.
‘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.