Tallow Creek, Byron Bay, experienced a significant fish kill in June 2019.
Tallow Creek, Byron Bay, experienced a significant fish kill in June 2019.

Council sheds light on vital lessons after devastating loss

BYRON Shire Council staff have said Tallow Creek will benefit from changes to management methods.

The new entrance management protocol for the creek’s mouth to the Pacific Ocean, now considered best practice in NSW, is in accordance with a revised interim position licence from the National Parks and Wildlife Service and DPI Fisheries/Marine Parks.

“The fish kill at Tallow Creek in June last year was significant and extremely distressing for everyone, including council staff,” the council’s biodiversity co-ordinator Chloe Dowsett said.

“Council, alongside NPWS, DPIE Science, Coast and Estuaries, DPI Fisheries, Cape Byron Marine Park and the BOBBAC – Arakwal Board, have been working on a new approach to managing Tallow Creek.

“Fish kills are a key concern for all coastal managers in Australia who are in charge of planned openings of intermittently closed and opening lagoons (ICOLL) like Tallow Creek.

“The Tallow Creek fish kill sparked detailed investigations into how it happened and what the science says about how we can reduce the chances of these events happening again.

“We’ve taken the opportunity to improve relationships with agencies and universities and to get involved with new research initiatives and projects to help us keep on top of the science.

“We’re doing all we can to help look after this beautiful, sensitive and culturally significant waterway and all the wildlife that call Tallow Creek home.”

Ms Dowsett said they now understood that helping a creek to open “more naturally during a rainfall event” and being “more adaptable” was best.

“We have learned that rainfall has a big part to play in fish kills and that regularly monitoring rainfall, water levels and water quality in the creek and sand berm levels may be able to greatly assist in avoiding fish kills in the future,” she said.

“Scraping and lowering of the sand berm at the creek mouth is supported by agencies only once the sand berm reaches 2.2m and during a rainfall event.

“This approach focuses on primarily managing the sand berm, with the aim being to encourage the creek to begin naturally opening itself during a rainfall event.

“This is different to our previous management approach which saw Council able to mechanically open or scrape the berm once water heights in Tallow Creek reached 2.2m.”

Artificially opening any creek mouth to the ocean, as the council did last June, can result in a sudden rush or drawdown of water which can strip the water of oxygen.