A fish death event is a sudden and unexpected mass mortality of fish. It can occur in inland or marine waters, and may involve the deaths of multiple fish species.
You can report fish deaths by calling EPA’s Pollution Hotline on 1300 372 842 (press option 2, then option 1).
Common reasons for fish deaths
Reports of fish deaths tend to increase directly after floods, or first rains after a bushfire.
Fish deaths can occur due to a range of environmental stress factors including:
- Low levels of water in waterways
- Poor-quality water
- Low oxygen
- Change in water temperatures
- High nutrients
- Algal blooms
- Pollution incidents
Fish deaths also occur as a result of disease and commercial fishing bycatch.
How to report a fish death event
You can call us on 1300 372 842 (24 hours), or you complete our online pollution form.
When you report, try to provide as much information as possible, such as:
- location of the incident, mentioning which waterway is involved
- time of the incident
- whether fish are dead, or alive but affected
- approximate number of dead fish and whether they are fresh or decomposing
- whether other fauna are affected
- condition of the waterway (flow, colour, odour, etc).
Agency roles and responsibilities
Several environment and water management agencies have roles and responsibilities when responding to fish deaths. These include Victorian Fisheries Authority (VFA), Agriculture Victoria, catchment management authorities, water corporations, local governments and asset managers.
Our Interim response guide – Fish death events (publication 1793) lays out the roles and responsibilities of water management and environment agencies for responding to fish deaths.
EPA Victoria does not have jurisdiction over fish deaths in the Murray River. If we receive reports from the community we will refer it to the NSW Department of Primary Industries.
How EPA responds to fish death reports
EPA operates a central triage and dispatch function 7 days a week, between 8:30 am and 10 pm. We monitor, assess and triage pollution reports to ensure we provide a timely and appropriate response. This includes giving direct feedback to reporters and notifying other agencies.
When you report a fish death event:
- A dispatch officer will contact you to seek further information. This will help us determine appropriate response actions.
- If a field investigation is warranted, EPA will direct an investigation officer to attend.
- Details of the field investigation will be shared with agencies that have management, investigation or enforcement responsibilities relating to the incident or its cause.
- Investigating officers will liaise with EPA to determine if fish samples, water samples or clean-up management actions are required.
For detailed information on this process, including how we assess and prioritise our response, please read EPA’s Interim response guide – Fish death events (publication 1793).
Bushfires and recreational water quality (publication 1817)
Recreational fishing and your health
How EPA protects Victoria's waters
How EPA monitors Victoria's water quality
Alternative water supplies and their use
Preventing water pollution: guidance for businesses
Reviewed 30 January 2023