Gladstone Harbour
Gladstone Harbour Chrissy Harris

Harbour report announced

NOTHING unusual?

That's what the independent Gladstone Fish Health Scientific Advisory Panel's report on fish health in Gladstone Harbour has confirmed with the release of findings his morning.

Click here to see the full report

In an early statement to The Observer online, Fisheries Minister Craig Wallace said the report concluded water quality monitoring results did not indicate unusual trends which establish a causal relationship between the condition of fish and water quality or sediment in Gladstone Harbour.

The Panel reviewed the available water quality data and reports and found that it was appropriately collected and analysed and concluded there was no clear evidence of a causal link between water quality and fish ill-health.

Initial analysis of the report shows findings to be:

  • water quality results received to date were not unusual, except for extremely low salinity during the 2010-11 wet season;
  • a wide range of possible causes for observed fish conditions which could relate to human mechanical damage (eg. nets and cuts); chemical damage, nutritional issues or other physical issues such as mechanical damage to the skin or gills from algal blooms, parasites or bacteria.
  • notes that the Queensland Government has already acted upon some of its recommendations, including undertaking analysis of dissolved metals but notes that there is no evidence of heavy metal impacts on fish

Mr Wallace said the Government accepted the recommendation of the Panel for further research in a range of areas and will now undertake an Integrated Gladstone Aquatic Monitoring Program.

He said the program would:

  • Build on the existing monitoring effort by developing an expanded investigation program focussed on testing well formed hypotheses and conceptual models about potential causal factors and to improve our understanding aquatic ecosystems.
  • Review scientific research to inform the above studies, and investigate the use of alternate testing methodologies where appropriate.
  • Ensure collaboration and integration with existing, institutional, industry and community based, research and monitoring such as the Port Curtis Integrated Monitoring Program (PCIMP).
  • Involve regular public reporting and the Government will consult the Chair of the Scientific Advisory Panel, Professor Ian Poiner on its development.

"The Panel was established to provide an independent scientific assessment of fish health in Gladstone, and we now know conclusively that there is no risk to human health from handling fish with the identified parasites, lesions or redness," Mr Wallace said.

"Fisheries Queensland has found approximately 95 per cent of non-barramundi fish caught in their monitoring in the Gladstone area are in good health and now that the Panel has released its findings, there should now be no doubt in anyone's mind that local seafood for sale is a good, safe product.

"Under the Food Act, any animal product which is not fit for human consumption cannot be sold, and it has been emphasised by the Panel that fish showing signs of disease should not be consumed.

"The report acknowledges barramundi appear to be more strongly affected than other fish species, likely due to population stress following the flooding events of last summer which caused 30,000 large barramundi to spill over the Awoonga Dam into Gladstone Harbour.

"The incidence of ill health in mud crabs and prawns was noted by the Panel to not be unusual compared to previous studies in Gladstone Harbour and elsewhere.

"Considerable damage has been done to the reputation of Gladstone seafood and I urge the local community and all Queenslanders to rally behind the industry to rebuild the brand.

"Panel members were not paid for their work on this report and I would like to thank them for donating their valuable time to provide expert analysis and advice."

Click here to see the full report