More must be done to improve water quality if Swan River dolphins are to survive climate change

Greens Member for North Metro Hon Alison Xamon MLC has warned the impacts of climate change could be disastrous for the Swan River and its population of dolphins, unless more is done to reduce pollution and improve water quality.

Speaking in Parliament last night, Hon Xamon said the death of six dolphins since April this year reflected the broader vulnerability of the whole Swan-Canning river system.

She said the death of a male dolphin calf from entanglement in a crab pot, health warnings issued due to algal blooms and the death of five dolphins from disease indicated a “river on life-support.”

“Despite the Government’s claims to the contrary, research from the US and UK has demonstrated a clear link between water pollutants and dolphin health,” Ms Xamon said.

“This creates a worrying picture of the Swan River – one that will certainly be exacerbated as we see Perth’s population grow and the river system struggles with the impacts of climate change.”

Ms Xamon said despite the implementation of the Swan River Protection strategy in 2015, there were still major gaps in reporting, planning and monitoring, which were hampering clean-up efforts across the Swan-Canning River System.

She said the failure to sufficiently reduce nutrient run-off, predominantly from the Ellenbrook and Avon catchments, meant short and long-term targets for nitrogen and phosphorus reduction were not being met.

“While there have been some improvements to water quality over recent decades, a protection strategy which achieves just ‘reasonable health’ for our rivers is not good enough,” Ms Xamon said.

“We need to review the water quality targets developed in 1998 and 2001, to ensure a more comprehensive set of data to work with.

“It is imperative that pollution is prevented from getting into waterways in the first place – we cannot keep implementing band-aid solutions that merely attempt to treat the symptoms of a deteriorating environment.”