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This project is supported by The Central Qld Coast Landcare Network through funding from the Australian Government's Caring for our Country

Caring for our Country

Pioneer Catchment & Landcare Group is supported by Mackay Regional Council through the Natural Environment Levy and Reef Catchments (Mackay Whitsunday Isaac) Limited.

Reef Catchments Mackay Regional Council

Fish Kill (2009 - 2011)

Main proponent:     PCL
Cash funding:   Australian Government
Other proponents:  
In kind funding:   Reef Catchments MWI, Mackay Regional Council, Department of Primary Industries & Fisheries, Department of Environment & Resource Management

Project outline:

Since 2003, Pioneer Catchment & Landcare Group has conducted ambient water quality monitoring within the catchment. There is now sufficient data to suggest that particular creeks have serious water quality problems. Fish kills regularly occur in three of the creeks. This project will enable people in the catchment, along with community volunteers and other stakeholders to have some specialised training and monitor specific creeks. The project aims to find out why the fish kills are happening in order to guide improved environmental and water quality to prevent further fish kills.

Project achievements and outcomes:

The fish kill was completed at the end of July 2011 and has significantly increased our knowledge of water quality processes. Despite no fish kill occurring within the study sites over the duration of the project, we have developed a greater understanding into the complexity of water quality processes in this region. To fully grasp the breadth of knowledge gained from this project it is best to refer to the project final report for a greater comprehensive analysis. 

The project maintained a regular monitoring program which was greatly complimented and enhanced from the data collected under the Healthy Waterways program. The data was collected by a dedicated and experienced group of volunteers who helped to make this project a success. The complimenting of Healthy Waterways data has enabled greater analysis of water quality processes as a result.

The data collection period was maintained from March 2009 through to January 2011, during which time, no fish kill was reported to have occurred within either Reliance or Fursden Creek. Ten volunteers attended training workshops and carried out regular water monitoring along 9 sites (3x Fursden, 6x Reliance). The project also increased community awareness of fish kill incidents and the importance of reporting these to the appropriate agencies through the following activities:

-       Various workshops: Water quality data collection procedures and fish identification training to volunteers (March   2009); Water weed identification and training to volunteers (April 2009); Data collection procedures and aquatic ecology training session (August 2010)

-       The development of a native freshwater fish identification booklet (April 2009);

-       Development of 2 fish kill posters and displays at regional events;

-       Various radio interviews and media articles;

-       Development of a comprehensive literature review and final report.

Some major points we’ve learned from this project:

  • DO concentrations in Reliance and Fursden Creeks are highly variable and these extreme values would be uninhabitable for fish survival.
  • It appears that another factor, or another factor interacting with low dissolved oxygen may cause a fish kill as our results do not indicate alone that low DO causes a fish kill.
  • The extreme rainfall variation between study years would likely explain the lack of a fish kill event over the study period.
  • Fish community population structure varies over the duration of a wet season and this is related to variation in dissolved oxygen levels.

In addition, we’ve learned the lack of reporting of fish kill events is a significant contributor to the lack of information gathered around a fish kill event. The reasons for the lack of reporting are complex and may rise from fear of reprimand or lack of understanding around the importance of reporting a fish kill promptly.

Through this project we have undertaken significant community awareness raising activities and education in the hopes that greater awareness will result in more reporting of such events so that they can be investigated. We have achieved this through media articles, radio and television interviews, posters, training sessions and booklets. We are confident that the benefit of this education effort to the community will far outlive the duration of this project.

Education material produced during the project is available FREE to schools in the Mackay Whitsunday region including:


Contact PCL to obtain a copy (limited number available).

Healthy Waterways volunteers recieved training in fish identification and monitoring procedures.