A massive fish kill, or localized die off of fish populations is occurring.
A 2014 Report on the State of Cockburn Sound found it was under severe environmental pressure, including ongoing concerns about the health of seagrass; signs of declining water quality, particularly in southern sections showing signs of nutrient enrichment and problems with dissolved oxygen concentration and poor water circulation; very poor water quality in some smaller areas and seafood was generally safe for consumption.
Fish kills like this are the first visible sign of environmental stress. Many fish species have a low tolerance for variations in environmental conditions and mass deaths are often an indicator of problems in the environment that may affect other animals and plants and may have a direct impact on other uses of the water.
Reduced oxygen in the water is the most common cause of kills and this may be due to factors such as sustained increases in water temperature, drought, algal bloom, overpopulation, infectious disease and parasites Toxicity is a real, but less common cause of fish kill.
The Barnett Government and the Fisheries Minister have come under severe criticism for their haphazard and shambolic handing of the crisis and their failure to act with a sense of urgency.
Recreational fishers are so outraged about the Government's response they crowd sourced and initiated their own investigation. In addition to an organised protest, they are urging fishers to take their boats out into Cockburn Sound to locate dead fish to understand more about the problem.
The WA Fisheries Minister Ken Bastian contradicted his own Department after saying he would not recommend people eat fish from Cockburn Sound. His comments came after his Department had said that fishing or swimming in the Sound were safe. The Minister was not aware that his own Department had issued an all clear for people to go fishing.
The ALP Opposition points to the abolition of the Cockburn Sound Management Authority, which existed to monitor water quality, as a contributing factor.