Update on the fish-kill investigation at Cockburn.

This is from a media release issued by the Dept Fisheries WA.

Fishing and swimming okay again in Cockburn Sound


The Department of Fisheries testing on water samples as part of the multi-agency investigation into last weekend’s fish deaths in Cockburn Sound has so far found no evidence of a chemical source being responsible.


Biosecurity research scientist Dr Michael Snow said the tests on water and fish tissue samples from the sound had been inconclusive but they did indicate elevated levels of a naturally-occurring bacterium that may be harmful to fish, however, this was unlikely to be the primary cause of the event.


“Testing will continue on samples of dead fish, along with further monitoring of water, but for now health authorities have given the all clear for fishers and swimmers,” he said.

The Department of Health advises people:

·      The water is suitable for swimming, diving and other forms of recreation;

·      The area is also suitable for fishing; and

·      We remind anyone not to swim or fish in water that looks discoloured, murky, or smells unpleasant, or where there are large numbers of dead fish.


Dr Snow said an investigation by the Department of Environment Regulation had to date not identified evidence of a significant reported pollution event in Cockburn Sound.


“Screening of water samples for the presence of harmful algal bloom species and their toxins by the Department of Health has also not identified levels of concern to human health,” he said.

“The search continues for a possible cause, through laboratory investigations on dead fish samples collected from the sound, but the wide range of tests required means that reports will not be available until at least late next week,” Dr Snow said.


“We investigate somewhere between 20-30fish kills per year in Western Australia. The majority are in inland waters and caused by low water quality often associated with algal blooms.

“The fact this event has occurred in more open ocean means we have less evidence of a direct cause to go on and we are having to explore all possible explanations. It may be the case that a single definitive cause cannot be identified, but we are continuing the search.”


Any fish kills should be reported to FISHWATCH on 1800 815 507. More information about fish kills can be found on the Department of Fisheries’ website at www.fish.wa.gov.au.

People are reminded that fishing for crabs in Cockburn Sound is prohibited, due to an ongoing closure. In addition, both Cockburn and Warnbro sounds have spawning closures on pink snapper fishing in place and the sounds are also subject to the annual West Coast demersal finfish closure.


MEDIA CONTACT: Ashley Malone 0418 901 767


Yours sincerely,

Dr Richmond Loh 

DipProjMgt, BSc, BVMS, MPhil (Pathology), MANZCVS (Aquatics& Pathobiology), CertAqV, NATA Signatory.
THE FISH VET, Perth, Western Australia, AUSTRALIA. 

Mobile Aquatic Veterinary Medical & Diagnostic Services.
Ph: +61 (0)421 822 383


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