Aerial spraying blamed for dead marine life on NSW north coast beaches

Dead marine life, including beach worms and pipis, found on a beach on the New South Wales mid-north coast has been blamed on aerial spraying of bitou bush around the Seal Rocks area.

Mid-north coast resident Lochlan Tisdell posted a video showing a pile of dead worms on the beach and blamed the herbicide used by the National Parks and Wildlife Service.

Bitou bush is an invasive species, originally from South Africa, which was planted along the NSW coast up until the 1960s to stabilise sand dunes.

Mark Banasiak, who represents the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers party in the NSW parliament, has also blamed aerial spraying by the National Parks and Wildlife Service.

The Department of Primary Industries (DPI), Fisheries NSW and the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) were investigating the die-off, but Banasiak said they had not been transparent with local commercial fishermen about the process.

“It’s up for EPA and DPI [and] National Parks and Wildlife Service to answer, but so far they haven’t answered and it’s frustrating,” he said.

Dean Elliot, a commercial fisherman, said he had found thousands of dead worms on Yagon beach.

“Fishers have been saying for many years that the bitou bush spraying kills beach worms, pipis and ghost crabs and all the micro-organisms living in the sand,” he said.

He also said that he, along with three other pipi harvesters, collected 270kg of pipis that were sold at the Sydney Fish Market on Friday, despite the NSW Food Authority knowing about potential contamination hazards.

“NSW Food Authority had the opportunity, but they took the gamble and allowed it for human consumption,” Elliot said.

Elliot said that while the beach is shut for testing he would still have to pay for a quota and potentially stood to lose $12,000.

Tricia Beatty, the chief executive of the Professional Fishers Association, said she notified the EPA and DPI of the worm kill and both were working on disease, chemical and algal analysis of “samples as far north as Seven Mile beach and to Bennetts beach, including Yagon beach”.

Jeff Cousins, another local fisher, said he “firmly believes” the spraying of the bitou bush was responsible for the death of aquatic life, and had tried to raise the issue with the National Parks and Wildlife Service but had been ignored.

A National Parks and Wildlife Service spokesperson said: “Investigations are considering a range of potential causes. Test results are not expected until at least next week.”

Comments are closed.