Earth Watch Report
MARTIN DE RUYTER/FAIRFAX NZ
|Biological Hazard||New Zealand||Southland, Nelson [Maitai River]|
|Thousands of dead fish have been washed up along the edges of Maitai River in Nelson. The Nelson City Council was advised of the situation by a witness this morning. It’s not yet known what caused the deaths, but the council is investigating a possible chemical spill. The council has confirmed it appears the fish got caught up in dirty water, as the fresh water fish in the same area seem to be OK. Fish and Game field officer for the Marlborough region, Lawson Davey says it’s the biggest fish kill he’s seen. “The tide was coming in and gulls were having a field day. The tide’s just coming in and there’s a whole lot of other pilchards and we’ve seen a few eels and other things feeding on the dead fish.” The fish were found near the Trafalgar Street bridge. Fishing has been banned from the lower reaches of the Maitai River in Nelson, after the discovery of thousands of dead fish. The Nelson City Council’s asking residents to avoid fishing in the area, following the unexplained death of pilchards. Samples of fish, water and sediment have been sent for testing, with results expected late next week. Council spokeswoman Angela Ricker says the public health risk is probably low but they’re taking a precautionary approach until more is known.|
|Biohazard name:||Mass Die-off (Fishes)|
|Biohazard level:||2/4 Medium|
|Biohazard desc.:||Bacteria and viruses that cause only mild disease to humans, or are difficult to contract via aerosol in a lab setting, such as hepatitis A, B, and C, influenza A, Lyme disease, salmonella, mumps, measles, scrapie, dengue fever, and HIV. “Routine diagnostic work with clinical specimens can be done safely at Biosafety Level 2, using Biosafety Level 2 practices and procedures. Research work (including co-cultivation, virus replication studies, or manipulations involving concentrated virus) can be done in a BSL-2 (P2) facility, using BSL-3 practices and procedures. Virus production activities, including virus concentrations, require a BSL-3 (P3) facility and use of BSL-3 practices and procedures”, see Recommended Biosafety Levels for Infectious Agents.|
Spill suspected in large fish kill
Nelson City Council is warning people to avoid fishing the Maitai River after thousands of fish were found dead along its edges this morning.
Seagulls have been feasting on the fish, which were killed by what Fish and Game field officer Lawson Davey suspected was a chemical spill.
The avenue of death stretched from below the Queen Elizabeth II Drive bridge to beyond the footbridge linking Paru Paru Rd with Trafalgar Park.
A council spokeswoman said the risk to public health is probably low, but people should avoid fishing that section of the river ”for the next few tides”.
Davey said the dead fish were one or two marine species ranging from tiny up to about 15 centimetres, and not the yellow-eyed mullet frequently seen in the river’s lower reaches.
Shortly after arriving on the scene, Davey hadn’t seen any dead trout or eels, but he said that judging by what he had found already, whatever killed the fish would have taken out all species in the vicinity.
He speculated that a chemical spill into Saltwater Creek, which runs alongside Haven Rd at the Trafalgar Centre and joins the Maitai, might have been the cause, with the affected fish then washed upriver and left by the tide.
“There’s dead fish everywhere. It’s the biggest fish kill I’ve seen.