Cockburn fish deaths: Rockingham councillor takes the plunge to dispel conspiracy theories

THE likely cause of the recent fish kill in Cockburn Sound has been revealed, but that has done little to stop speculation among the public of something more sinister being responsible for the death of upwards of 1500 fish.

Testing revealed a microscopic bloom of algal diatom species Chaetoceros spp. was the “likely cause”, however the public remained sceptical.

The Courier has heard anecdotally from politicians, members of the public, politicians who did not want to be named and posters on social media about the state of Cockburn Sound.

Some have called it Rockingham’s “worst disaster in 30 years”, some have said they have been told by people in the navy not to fish the waters near Garden Island.

Others have speculated about an industrial spill and some have reported people visiting the doctor after getting a rash from swimming there.

CBH Group admitted this week that 500kg of non-GM canola was accidentally dumped into Cockburn Sound in November, while Tronox and Alcoa both told the Courier there was nothing to suggest its operations were connected to the fish kill.

City of Rockingham councillor Matthew Whitfield posted a photo of himself swimming in Cockburn Sound to Facebook on Tuesday and told the Courier after hearing complaints from the public he wanted to see what was happening with his own eyes.

“A lot of people have been in touch, not just with me but other councillors, complaining and offering conspiracy theories,” he said.

“Some of the things people were saying sounded ridiculous. The facts were released (on Tuesday), and I believe in the science and facts. I understand people are sceptical but I wanted to see what’s going on with my own eyes.

“I had a quick swim and snorkel, (in the water) long enough to see there is no issue. It’s not dead. I saw lots of blowies, lots of smaller fish and three crabs.

“For me that’s enough to say (the Sound is) not dead. I saw nothing that shocked me. There’s been too much scepticism and negativity but the question now should be what happens to the Sound long term? How do we look after it?”

Cr Whitfield also issued a challenge that he would be more than happy to eat fish caught in the Sound.

“If someone wants to catch a fish for me to eat, I’ll be happy to eat it… as long as it’s not a blowie,” he said.

The Courier hoped to speak to Rockingham Wild Encounters, however its calls were not returned.