'If someone else did this, they could be fined $220,000'
WHEN news of the massive fish kill at Tallow Creek spread across social media last Saturday morning, concerned locals rushed to try and save the fish or help in the clean up.
Byron Shire Council, with the cooperation from NPWS and the Cape Byron Marine Park Authority, had opened the creek mouth on Friday afternoon due to high water levels inundating parts of some surrounding properties and pathways.
Local marine science teacher Sally Miller and her four children Max, Amelia, Joel and Jay, along with their friend, Marley Rando, were amongst those helping.
The Miller children are all members of the Byron Bay Fishing Club - Rock and Beach, and understood what species of fish they were cleaning up.
Even though Sally and her children were well informed about the fish killed and the reason behind it they were still dismayed and upset the fish had died in such a this cruel way, and at the damage done to the unique Tallow Creek eco-system.
"Council opened the mouth of the creek to the ocean on Friday and by Saturday morning there was not enough oxygen left in the water to support the fish so they suffocated and died in the lagoon,” Ms Miller said.
"The science behind this relates to the amount of dissolved oxygen in the water and the fact that fresher water with oxygen sits on top of the muddier sediment, so the lighter, fresher water races out fast than the muddy sediment laden heavier water leaving less oxygen left in Tallow Creek.
"Tallow Creek is in a national park and is protected by law as a Special Purpose Zone.
"It is periodically connected to Tallow Beach which is part of the Cape Byron Marine Park, also an area with zones of legislated protection rules.
"Tallow Creek was once home to the Arakwal elders. Its ecosystem is used as a nesting site by shorebirds that fly to and from Antarctica and the birds obviously need food when they are at Tallow Creek.
"The food chains and food webs that exist in Tallow Creek are complex and multi dimensional. If someone unauthorised opened that creek mouth to the ocean there is a chance they could be fined a whopping $220,000.
"If I was caught fishing or casting a fishing line into Tallow Creek there is a $600 fine, which would be levied by National Parks or Cape Byron Marine Park.
"It's ironic then that council is allowed to open the creek and then unjust that the fish died like this.”
Ms Miller has called the Environmental Protection Agency and the Fisheries Department, and was assured that Tallow Creek was resilient, fish will return and the equilibrium will naturally re-establish over time.
Byron Shire Council staff will meet with NPWS, the Cape Byron Marine Park Authority, Crown Lands and Arakwal next week to discuss possible mitigation options for future opening events.