Cockburn Sound Fish Kill: “Bloom Was Not Evident,” Industrial Contaminants Ignored

Cockburn Sound Fish Kill: “Bloom Was Not Evident,” Industrial Contaminants Ignored

An investigation by Rotunda Media.

By Jonathon Davidson

New documents obtained under the FOI act by Rotunda Media reveal staff within the Water and Fisheries Departments knew there was no solid proof of an algae bloom being involved in the November 2015 Cockburn Sound fish kill.

In a written response to questions sent to the Department of Fisheries, Dr. Mike Snow, an aquatic scientist, acknowledged there was no proof of an algae bloom during the fish kill event last year in the Cockburn Sound.

“Although a general bloom was not evident in this case please find additional information which highlights potential contributing factors to blooms,” he wrote.

Attached was an illustration highlighting how stagnant waters, decay of algae bloom (leading to reduced oxygen) and low oxygen levels overall all caused the fish kill.

It had not rained between the 18th and 23rd of November 2015, making claims about rainfall invalid.

I have said all this to Department of Fisheries. They have refused to answer me anymore, saying it is a DER issue.

Dissolved oxygen levels and high temperatures were not likely to have caused a bloom in November of 2015, either, according to obtained water data from the period.

Both factors were also indicated as likely causes of the bloom in the controversial Department of Fisheries official report into the fish kill last year.

The conclusion that algae bloom caused the fish kill event is not supported by laboratory evidence or internal emails from the period.

Obtained documents from the Health, Water and Fisheries departments also show that the presence of industrial contaminants in fish samples were ignored.

One obtained email reveals that a scientist working within the Department of Agriculture was contacted and requested to give an independent review of water samples.

“The stomach content level for phosphorous seemed to be well above what you might expect, but there are no reports of a bloom in the Sound (?) [sic],” their email read.

Copies of additional emails obtained under FOI reveal that algae bloom was internally scrutinised as the cause of the fish kill as early as the 20th of November, almost a month before the algae bloom hypothesis was finalised.

Additionally, the stomachs, flesh and livers of over 30 tested fish samples all came back positive for high counts of arsenic, phosphorous and sulfur.

The chaeteceros species of algae was identified as being the factor that caused the kill, however, high chaeteceros counts were only recorded at the mussel farms under the Kwinana grain terminal and at the south of Garden Island, where they would be expected to increase.

Additionally, counts did not increase for some five days after the event.

An email sent from a laboratory within the Department of Water at roughly the beginning of the fish kill identifies that there was no proof of an algae bloom, among the very first samples tested.

Some emails collected via FOI:

More to come.

Nobody will touch this story. Not WAToday, not Seven, not PerthNow. This is, in my biased mind, ludicrous.

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