Murray River suffers widespread fish kill with 30,000 fish dead

There are no stronger advocates for healthy aquatic environments than recreational fishers. That is why the Peel region’s recreational fishing community has been up in arms over the recent fish kill in the Murray River, near Mandurah.

Recfishwest is concerned about the severe Murray River fish kill.

Recent reports indicate that up to 30,000 fish have been killed by what is described by authorities as “poor water quality – specifically low dissolved oxygen levels”.

As one of the Murray River’s largest user groups, the recreational fishing community has raised concerns about both the cause of the kill and the ongoing impact on fish stocks in this important waterway.

Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland said more needs to be done to protect WA’s river and estuarine environments, particularly given high level of economic, social and ecological value these systems provide to the community.

“With all of the resources of government and the multi-agency involvement in managing these systems we continue to see fish kills of this nature – the fishing community demand better,” he said.

“In addition to this, limited communications from authorities is compounding people’s frustration.”

Many community members are sharing their disappointment through both mainstream and social media channels.

Here are reactions posted to Recfishwest’s Facebook page:

• “Exactly the reply I expected… move on, nothing to see here.”
• “No doubt they’ll just say it was a natural event and sweep it under the carpet.”
• “There are thousands dead. The smell was not nice. We were on a boat and every slipway and all the banks had dead fish, bream and mulloway.”

Two significant fish kills have occurred in the Murray River this year.

“The fishing community works hard to protect fish stocks and we’re disappointed to see excessive numbers of fish wiped out by a single fish kill event such as this,” Dr Rowland said.

“It’s also important to note, that numerous not for profit catchment groups have also been doing their bit  working on bank erosion, revegetation, fencing stock and controlling invasive weeds which helps keep our estuaries healthy.

“This is the second fish kill we have seen in the Murray this year. There’s too much at risk for these events to be treated as normal and expected.”

More needs to be done

WA’s recfishing community has a demonstrated track record in standing up of our estuary environments and healthy fish stocks including:

• Stocking important recreational species, such as mulloway;

• Fish tagging and research on black bream movement in the Murray River;

• Funding conservation initiatives, including fishing line disposal units and clean-up days;

• Restoring important shellfish reef habitats in Oyster Harbour at Albany.

• Achieving World Class Marine Stewardship Council’s (MSC) Certification of the Peel-Harvey Blue Swimmer Crab fishery. The certification enforces a rigorous standard for sustainable management of Peel-Harvey fisheries.

Recfishwest also actively promotes best practice catch-and-release fishing methods and ensures fishers adhere bag, size limits, seasons and other measures through measures including the Recfishwest smartphone app.

Maintaining a healthy catchment is essential to ensuring the sustainability of our estuaries and healthy fish stocks, Dr Rowland said.

“The community does not accept fish kill events as always being natural or the new norm,” he said.

Recfishwest still has questions regarding the latest Murray fish kill:

• Is it safe to eat fish from this system?;
• What effect has this had on fish stocks in the system?;
• What actions can be taken to protect the remaining fish stocks?; and,
• What is being done to stop this happening again?

To read the Department of Water’s Media Statement, click here.

Recfishwest thank the community for their images of the dead fish and urge fishers to continue sending in your photos.

What effect has this latest fish kill had on Murray River fish stocks?