The source of hundreds of biofilters washed up in Victoria has been found
Between the 27th of June and the 9th of July 2020, several volunteers based in Warrnambool (VIC) were finding small biofilters during their clean-ups along various local beaches.
Biofilters, commonly used in aquaculture and waste treatment, are not usually recorded in the region, and local community members were keen to find out where they had washed in from. Some of the potential sources considered were the local wastewater treatment plant, home aquariums, cruise ships and the nearby university that ran aquaculture studies.
The source has since been confirmed to be Southern Ocean Mariculture (SOM), an abalone farm in Port Fairy (VIC), which is one of the first abalone farms to be established in Australia.
Between the 19th and 20th of June, approximately 5 cups, or 1000 units, of biofilters escaped the farm. This was likely due one of the outlets blocking, causing the water level to rise in the containers and allowing the filters to travel through the inlet pipes.
An EPA pollution report was filed by a local community member who collected a handful of the biofilters from a nearby beach in Port Fairy. As soon as SOM was made aware of the issue on Mon the 22nd of June, they installed fine mesh screens both to the inlet and outlet pipes of the water tanks. They also conducted beach clean-ups of their own in Port Fairy where they collected over 165 filters in total during the following 3 days. After three days, filters were no longer observed on the beach.
The EPA conducted an inspection at the farm on the 7th of July and they were pleased with the measures taken by SOM to eliminate the further loss of biofilters.
The General Manager of SOM, Mark Gervis, apologised on behalf of SOM that the incident occurred. Mr Gervis assures the public that SOM have taken the incident seriously and that they are committed to the corporate social responsibility towards the community and the environment that they rely on. Mr Gervis offers an open invitation for any members of the community to go and visit the farm to see how they operate and to observe what safety measures are in place.
The Tangaroa Blue Foundation would like to thank Southern Ocean Mariculture for their cooperation, as well as their fast and effective response to the incident. Thank you also to the volunteers and members of the public for collecting data and reporting the incident.
- Biofilters found on the beach in Port Fairy – Photo by Jarred Obst
- Biofilters on Logan’s Beach, Warrnambool – Photo by Mandy Shute
Written by Melissa Tuliranta, Tangaroa Blue Foundation Project Officer