A recent Richmond River fish kill.
A recent Richmond River fish kill.

$1.5m funding for research into preventing fish kills

RESEARCH will soon commence on ways to reduce de-oxygenation in the Richmond River and prevent devastating fish kills.

The $1.5 million project will be funded by the Australian Research Council, Ballina Shire Council, Richmond River County Council, Southern Cross University and Monash University.

Its overall aim is to investigate better ways to manage the water quality of the river.

This is particularly important during summer floods, when blackwater drains from key wetlands such as the Tuckean, Bungawalbin and Rocky Mouth Creek backswamps.

Deoxygenation, which can lead to fish kills, is influenced by factors such as temperature, vegetation type, soil type and time.

But there are still gaps in information.

Filling these gaps could help to reduce the intensity and duration of deoxygenation events.

As part of the new research project, the Southern Cross GeoScience team will use cutting-edge geochemical techniques to get a better understanding of the chemical nature of the compounds being exported as blackwaters into the river during floods.

SCU Geoscience co-director and project leader Professor Leigh Sullivan said the geochemistry of deoxygenation events in the Richmond River was poorly understood despite regular major floods in the Northern Rivers region.

"Deoxygenated dead zones are a rapidly growing global crisis in coastal areas," he said.

"A major cause of the dead zones in our estuaries is the formation and release of blackwaters from coastal wetlands.

The research will help councils and state agencies to make more informed land-use decisions.

Ballina Shire Council has acknowledged the importance of the health of the river and agreed to provide $120,000 in cash support for the research project.

But to enable the three-year project to continue, $120,000 will be needed each subsequent year.

Ballina council says the other constituent councils of Richmond River County Council - Richmond Valley and Lismore - should contribute funds.

General manager Paul Hickey and Ballina council's RRCC delegates have been authorised to make "strong representations" to the county council with regards to the equal sharing of the costs.

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