Large numbers of giant beach worms and shellfish have been found dead along NSW beaches leading to fears they have been poisoned.
The mass die-off of invertebrates, some more than a metre in length, came to light after a man from Taree on the Mid North Coast of NSW posted video of the creatures to Facebook.
Filmed yesterday at the southern end of Yagon Beach, north of Newcastle, by fisherman Lachlan Tisdell, beach worms can be seen strewn across the sand.
Speaking from behind the camera, a man alleges NSW National Parks and Wildlife (NPWS) was seen spraying herbicide nearby earlier in the week.
Another man adds that seagulls are leaving the worms alone because “they’re poisoned”.
“So much for it doesn’t kill anything,” a man can be heard saying.
One person in the video then pulls a worm out of the sand, which he says would normally be too fast to grab, but instead it falls limply to the ground.
Shellfish sick across large stretch of beach
Tricia Beatty, CEO Professional Fishers Association (PFA), said sand-dwelling shellfish, known as pippies, have also been found sick between Hawks Nest and Foster.
She said the incident was first noticed on Thursday, just days after NPWS conducted aerial spraying of invasive bitou bush across a “substantive area” nearby.
Samples of the invertebrates were taken from the beach and sent to authorities with a request that they test for herbicide.
“We contacted fisheries immediately and said fishermen had concerns about the bitou bush spraying,” Ms Beatty told Yahoo News Australia.
“We asked them to test for herbicide, but we’ve also had lots of floods and rains recently too.
“It’s a waiting game now.”
EPA testing samples for pesticide
While the NPWS website states that their spraying causes “negligible damage to the environment”, many local fishermen believe they are to blame.
NPWS did not respond to Yahoo News Australia's request for comment, however NSW Fisheries said they are investigating.
The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has confirmed they were advised of the incident by NSW Fisheries and the worms' cause of death is yet to be determined.
“The EPA is working with other agencies and is having samples analysed for pesticide, chemicals and marine biotoxins,” a spokesperson said.
“Analysis results are expected towards the end of next week.”
Anyone with knowledge of the incident can make a report to the EPA, which operates 24 hours, on 131 555.
Do you have a story tip? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org