Bellingen Riverwatch reports encouraging river health, but says stay vigilant Coffs Coast Coffs Coast News by News Of The Area - Modern Media - December 11, 2021 Gerry McGilvray, Department of Planning, Industry & Environment releases turtles into the river. Photo: Brent Mail, DPIE. BELLINGEN Riverwatch’s (BR) September river-analysis data has been interpreted into a report, which shows that the rivers of the Bellinger and Kalang catchments are generally in very good health. It verifies BR partners’ scientific understanding that these are unique river systems and some of the healthiest and most pristine rivers in Australia. Advertise with News of The Area today. It’s worth it for your business. Message us. Phone us – (02) 4981 8882. Email us – [email protected] “However, there are still problems presenting in many parts of the catchment – one area showing poor results consistently for the past four years is Caratti Creek, the little creek in Market Park near the tennis courts,” Program Manager Amy Denshire told News Of The Area. Bellingen Riverwatch, now the largest river health citizen science program in NSW, was born from the need to collect continuous water quality data to assist scientists involved in the Bellinger River Snapping Turtle recovery. This turtle is now Critically Endangered, after suffering a mass mortality event in 2015 which killed an estimated 90% of the population. “It’s difficult to describe how terrible it was to see 90% of our turtles disappear from the river,” says Fiona McMullin, a river landholder. The Department of Planning, Industry and Environment has been successfully releasing turtles back into the river from captive breeding programs at Taronga Zoo Sydney and Symbio Wildlife Park. This summer, BR partners remind the community that the biohazard risk of the virus still prevails. “Tourists and community members – please wash your swimmers and canoes in between visits to help prevent spreading the virus,” said Amy Denshire. “It’s a simple way we can all help.” There are many other ways we can make a difference – choosing to wear zinc instead of chemical sunscreens, going to the toilet before we leave town, or pulling some of the problem weeds out when you next visit the river, such as Madeira vine, Billygoat weed, or Castor oil. Learn more about how we can help at ozgreen.org.au/br_help or about what BR data is telling us at www.ozgreen.org/br_overallfindings. To subscribe to BR updates, visit www.ozgreen.org/newsletter. By Andrea FERRARI A passionate, engaged community, Bellingen Riverwatch has grown to become the largest river health citizen science program in NSW. Ingrid Garland, Enviro Comm Connections, teaching volunteers about macroinvertebrate monitoring. There are less than 200 Bellinger River Snapping Turtles left in the river – let’s all work together to protect their home. Photo: Brett Vercoe. Fiona McMullin, river landholder, remembers the event in 2015 that killed almost 90% of the now critically endangered Bellinger River Snapping Turtle.