11 September 2019

Another coastal waterway in distress, hundreds of fish dead near Moruya

| Ian Campbell
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Fish kill at Meringo Lagoon, Will Douglas, Greens candidate or Bega. Photo: Gillianne Tedder

Fish kill at Meringo Lagoon, Will Douglas, Greens candidate for Bega. Photo: Gillianne Tedder

Another coastal waterway is falling victim to dry times with the Department of Primary Industries (DPI) – Fisheries investigating the death of hundreds of fish at Meringo Lagoon/Lake south of Moruya.

The marine species washing up on the shoreline include Black Bream, Gudgeons, Mullet, Luderick and eels.

“The suspected cause is related to the very low water levels at Lake Meringo and the resulting poor water quality this causes,” a NSW DPI spokesperson says.

“At these low levels, coastal lakes are very susceptible to high water temps, algal growth and low dissolved oxygen.

“Poor water quality in our coastal lakes is likely to continue, without significant rainfall.”

The fish kill was witnessed on Wednesday by Greens MP David Shoebridge and Greens candidate for Bega Will Douglas.

“I’m distressed to see thousands of dead fish covering the banks of the lagoon. It’s the latest evidence that our coastal environment is under serious threat,” Mr Douglas says.

“We can’t let this become the new normal, we need to protect the buffers around our coastal lagoons and make a serious commitment to address climate change.”

This latest fish kill comes just a month after thousands of Snapper and Leatherjackets died in similar conditions at Wallagoot Lake in the Bournda Nature Reserve, north of Merimbula.


Greens MP David Shoebridge says, “Seeing these thousands of dead fish really brings home the environmental damage we are doing to the planet and the scale of the challenge before us to deal with climate change.

“We only have a short time to act. If we don’t move to 100 per cent renewable energy and rapidly reduce our carbon footprint, this will keep happening.”

DPI Fisheries says they will continue to work with the National Parks and Wildlife Service and Eurobodalla Shire Council on monitoring Lake Meringo. The community can also play its part and report any observations to the Fishers Watch hotline – 1800 043 536.

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Dorte Planert5:18 pm 16 Mar 19

Hardly can be blamed on the drought any longer. We had massive rain. A week with extremely heavy thunderstorms all week in January left burn marks on my skin from touching wet leaves in my garden, afterwards the dead fish at Wallagoot were reported. The slowing or retarded growth of my fruit and vegetables despite warmth and rain can only make us wonder, what is going on.

dennis doanld7:54 am 16 Mar 19

Fill kills will continue whilst the state government continues their approach where Crown Lands own these waterways, however Councils are responsible from shoreline to shoreline. Indeed, the drought is causing the impact with limited rainfall where the catchments are not providing sufficient freshes to lakes to assist with increasing water heights and on occasions creating break outs thereby tidal exchanges with the ocean. Should there be excessive rainfall with a closed entrance to a lake the impact can be flooding of properties changes to the oxygen levels thereby impacting on marine life within a lake. Many Lake entrances have been closed through migrating sand and the tidal delta has increase in height and width, hereby reducing the depth to encourage breakouts. Most Councils have a formula to provide for manual intervention when the water level reaches a specific height, maybe there should also be consideration toward decreasing lake levels where once the nominated lower limit is reached that the Lake in opened to the ocean to allow tidal access which is assist in increasing heights and assist with the marine life with the lake. Eurobodalla shire has 21 (ICOLL’s) can Shoalhaven 13 (ICOLL’s). Lake Conjola is one of the ICOLL’s in the Shoalhaven, where dead fish were evident during 2018. The entrance has been closed for about 18 months and Algae has been observed, the colour of the water in the lake is terrible. Council provided vouchers for tourist during December / January for free swimming at Ulladulla Leisure Centre. Council made several attempts to open the lake due to low level flooding however none of the attempts were successful. The estimated cost with these attempts was apparently in excess of $60k. The fishing in Lake Conjola has deteriorated, the ecology of the lake is changing and no longer can residents express that Lake Conjola is Pristine. The responsibility and accountability for our waterways must be removed from councils as the majority do not have sufficient funds or qualified personnel to ensure our waterways are maintained to be pristine. Whilst most councils have (EPM’s) Estuary management Plans many do not include dredging of our waterways. The state government wants our waterways to be natural, however that is impossible due to many facts one being urban development. In Lake Conjola the manmade changes have occurred during past decades which has changed the ICOLL forever. Dredging in 1999 where the spoils were deposited on the southern shoreline and with time the strong southerly winds the spoils migrated thereby closing off the entrance. Marram Grass was planted and Dune fencing was erected which only increased the height of the sand. Trees and shrubs were planted in front of the main southern dune, the council camping grounds were extended infilling wetlands, removing swamp oak trees and installed rock walls replacing the natural shoreline of sand and reeds. In 2016 dredging occurred to create a new channel on the northern side of the lake toward the entrance. The project was a complete disaster with none of the goals achieved. Significant erosion was noticeable of the northern bank, the new channel lasted about 3 months with additional sand moving onto the tidal delta and the spoils that were placed on the southern shoreline were blown into the lake increasing the width and height of the tidal delta. This just one example of mismanagement of our waterways, and there are many others along our coastline. There are significant concerns regarding the Manning River south channel which is impacting on oyster farmers , residents and tourist at Old Bar, Farquhar Inlet, Harrington, etc… The mismanagement is not confined to the south coast,

As a nation we need to take a serious look at all we are doing, individually and as a nation we need to take stock of our own lives and ask why. Look hard you’ll see the reason. We have turned our backs separately and collectively on the ONE who provides the rain.
Find God in the midst of this, connect with Him and He Will provide. After all it is His universe. We didn’t create it, but we are doing a good job of stuffing it up.

This will happen in many land locked creeks and lakes in the Eurobodalla area if not acted upon sooner rather than later.
As a visitor to this area for over fifty years I have seen this happen beforehand, usually it is caused by drought which has been around since time began.
Also in my opinion there is a huge resistance by council, Greens and NP to open any creeks or lakes landlocked by lack of rainfall, as soon as the rain falls the creeks and lakes that are closed to the ocean fill with ” Blackwater”, this strips the dissolved oxygen content out of the system and leads to massive fish kills. Greens are usually the worst as they say everything has to open naturally
Several years ago Congo creek experienced a similar event with dead fish littering the beach for over a kilometer when the creek finally opened,the
fishing in this creek was extremely poor for a number of years.
Congo creek is currently in extremely poor condition and another fish kill will happen as soon as the rains fill the creek and it is opened naturally or by human intervention, be interesting to see if it is reported if a election is looming.
This is not a matter for Political grandstanding or trying to increase votes, yes humans have interrupted flows of creeks and lakes in all areas across NSW and we as a nation need to help the environment.
If any one can remember Lake Wingdang many years ago it was considered a cesspit.Human intervention has kept this lake opened to the ocean improving water flow and water quality, it now looks in pristine condition which shows what can be achieved if we work together as a nation.

Robert Bertram8:36 am 15 Mar 19

According to the BOM Moruya recieved above average rainfall in December and January, but February and March have been below average. If a lack of water entering the lake is responsible for the fish kill, blaming the weather may be drawing a long bow. It seems most likely, given there are more than 20 dams in this small 200 hectare catchment, that there may have been enough rain but it doesn’t get to the lake, unless all the dams are full.

So it is the management that all levels of government approve and support that is the main culprit to blame for this tragic outcome.

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