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Government of Western Australia - Department of Fisheries
Friday 18 October 2019

Probable cause found for Cheynes Beach fish kill

Update to Fisk Kill Notification
– 18 October 2019 at 5.30pm

Scientists from the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) have today established that most of the shellfish, observed in the marine fish kill at Cheynes Beach near Albany last week, were oysters and not mussels as first thought. Some oyster and mussel species can look similar, but on this occasion it was the oyster Electroma papilionacea (commonly called butterfly-shell) and is a native species to the south-west of WA that lives amongst seaweed and seagrasses.

The DPIRD test results indicate this was a natural event. 

Histologic examination of the specimens showed the oysters were in good health with signs they had recently spawned.  Significantly, just prior to this event, there had been a large easterly swell in this area of the coast and the behaviour of oysters around spawning makes them more susceptible to being washed ashore.  These factors would have contributed to the extensive number of native oysters observed at Cheynes Beach, along with a small number of other marine species.

Fish kills should be reported to FishWatch on 1800 815 507.

Update to Fisk Kill Notification
– 14 October 2019 at 1.50pm

Laboratory tests by DPIRD this week will help in the assessment of what caused the deaths of a large number of mussels, and smaller numbers of other shellfish and marine species, along a large stretch of Cheynes Beach near Albany, late last week.

Following a public report, DPIRD officers attended the location to take samples that will be examined and tested at laboratories in Perth.

It’s hoped results of those tests will be available by later this week.

City of Albany rangers attended the fish kill site over the weekend and Fisheries officers have been tasked to take further water samples for analysis today and will continue to monitor the area during the week.

Fish kills should be reported to FishWatch on 1800 815 507.

DPIRD Fish Kill Notification
- 11 October

Investigations are underway, following the report of a fish kill on WA’s South Coast at Cheynes Beach near Albany.

A large number of mussels, both dead and alive, have been observed along an approximately 1.1 kilometre section of beach. There is also small number of other species on the shore, including other shellfish of various species and some starfish.

Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development officers are investigating the event, to gather information and assess the extent and possible cause of the fish kill. Samples have been collected for laboratory testing.

Updates will be issued, when further information is available. For the meantime people are reminded to stay safe around fish kills.

We urge people to stay safe by following the general Department of Health advice:

    • not to swim in areas of water with large numbers of dead and decomposing fish because they may contain high levels of bacteria and have an objectionable odour;
    • not to fish in water with large numbers of dead fish;
    • temporarily not to collect or consume fish from the waters near a fish kill;
    • not to collect and use dead fish for bait or consumption because of the risk of high levels of bacteria;
    • and not to allow pets and other animals to come into contact with dead or decomposing fish either in the water or on shore.

Fish kills should be reported to our FishWatch 24-hour hotline on 1800 815 507.

The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) is responsible for responding to fish kill events that occur in ocean environments.

The Department of Water and Environmental Regulation manages investigations on fish kills that occur in estuaries, rivers and naturally occurring inland water bodies.

In both circumstances, DPIRD’s laboratories carry out testing of any fish samples assessed as suitable for that purpose and this can take some time.    

Fish kills in open ocean areas may provide less evidence of a direct cause and we explore all possible explanations. It may not be possible to identify a single definitive cause, but every effort is made to establish probable factors.

More information about fish kills can be found on the department’s website at

Last modified: 18/10/2019 5:31 PM

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