SCALE OF PROBLEM: Darren Hale (left), of the DPI, Ken Thurlow from ECOfishers NSW, Ballina%Fishermens Co-op chairman Garry Job
SCALE OF PROBLEM: Darren Hale (left), of the DPI, Ken Thurlow from ECOfishers NSW, Ballina%Fishermens Co-op chairman Garry Job

Wash-up from Richmond River fish kill

By MARY MANN and GRAHAM BROADHEAD AT A private meeting between stakeholders and officials yesterday in Ballina, local fishers called for the Richmond River to be closed to all forms of fishing for the next month after last weekend's massive fish kill.

Any decision is still to be rubber stamped by the NSW%Department of Primary Industries. However, local fishers like Garry Joblin expect a closure to be enforced in a matter of days.

This comes as thousands of decaying fish are stinking up the river after dying from a lack of oxygen in the water, caused by rotting vegetation from recent flooding.

Already Mr Joblin, and the 11 other licensed commercial fishers who get their catch from the Richmond River, are effectively out of work, facing an uncertain future with no compensation available.

However, they say the%closure will be for the best.

"It will allow the river to get back to a sustainable state," said Mr Joblin, chairman of Ballina Fishermen's Co-op.

"But we want it to be closed for as short a time as possible so we can get back to work."

Ken Thurlow, of ECOfishers NSW, blames Government authorities responsible for land management practices and floodplain management for the latest devastation to the fishing industry.

He said flood mitigation drains in the catchment were 'full of stinking black water (deoxygenated)' and 'monosulphidic black ooze' which, when let into the river during a flood event, led to the fish kill.

However, Michael Wood, floodplain resource manger for Richmond River County Council, the agency responsible for the 40 floodgates in the Richmond catchment, said the gates for the major systems were being opened to allow tidal flushing, as part of a management strategy.

He said the tail waters of the flood, which have been sitting in the floodplains in hot weather for more than a week, were the primary source of the deoxygenated water entering the river system.

A NSW Department of Primary Industries spokesperson said the proposal to close the river and other input would be taken into account when it decided whether to impose a formal fishing closure of the river. A decision will be made soon.



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