Fish stocks now threatened by bushfire run-off

Brisbane Times –

Stocks of prawns, snapper, whiting and flathead around the coasts of south-east Australia are now threatened by ash and other bushfire debris making its way from the Victorian and NSW fire grounds to estuaries and coastlines.

Conservationists have grave fears for the aquatic life of the Gippsland Lakes, just months before the Victorian government was due to turn the estuarine system into a refuge from commercial fishing.

A mass fish kill, likely to have been cause by bushfire ash and soot, has already been reported in the freshwater Lake Tilba on the hard-hit NSW south coast and the Australian Marine Conservation Society says more coastal habitats are at risk as the rains wash ash, sediment and other debris through the waterways and towards the ocean.

A Gippsland local river management specialist echoed the society’s concerns on Monday, saying there was “no doubt” that heavy bushfire pollution was on the way down the lakes’ feeder streams from the burnt areas.

Ross Scott, a former state bureaucrat and river management consultant, who lives by the lakes near Paynesville, said the health of the lakes was vital to the area’s tourism industry.

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