Byron Bay’s Tallow Creek and its entrance to the Pacific Ocean is set to benefit from improved management methods, following lessons learned from a substantial fish kill event that happened in June 2019.
The creek’s new entrance management protocol, which is now considered best practice in NSW, is in accordance with a revised ‘interim position’ licence from National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) 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,” Chloe Dowsett, Council’s Coastal and Biodiversity Coordinator, 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,” Ms Dowsett said.
“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,” Chloe Dowsett, Council’s Coastal and Biodiversity Coordinator, said.
“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.
“What we understand now, and what is being shared across NSW, is that assisting a creek to open more naturally during a rainfall event and being more adaptable is the best approach.
“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.
“Scraping and lowering of the sand berm at the creek mouth is supported by agencies only once the sand berm reaches 2.2 m and during a rainfall event.
“This approach focusses 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,” Ms Dowsett said.
Artificially opening any creek mouth to the ocean can result in a sudden rush, or drawdown of water, into the ocean which can quickly strip the water of oxygen and cause a fish kill, as happened at Tallow Creek last year.
A report about the ‘interim position’ licence from National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) was presented at the Byron Shire Council meeting on 28 May 2020.