Sick crabs raise more issues

GLADSTONE Harbour's fish disease controversy has taken yet another twist.

Commercial crabbers have shown The Observer a catch of crabs with what appear to be ulcers eating away at their shells.

The ulcers, as they are being called by crabbers, appear to be starting as small spots on the crabs' shells before developing into larger holes.

One crab had a large chunk of its shell missing on the side of its body, exposing its inards.

Two crabbers, Sam Roberts and Neville Samuels, presented the crabs at Gladstone Fish Market.

They, and the fish market's Simon Whittingham, said they had never seen the symptoms displayed. Mr Samuels has been crabbing for 35 years.

The crabs were caught in creeks off The Narrows.

Adding further confusion to the issue, another commercial crabber contacted The Observer yesterday to say he had been collecting healthy catches of crabs in Gladstone Harbour, although not in The Narrows.

The man declined to be named, but said he has not seen any evidence of an endemic problem among crab populations this year.

A Fisheries Queensland spokesperson said the department had not received samples of the crabs shown in the photos and could not confirm what had affected them.

"Crabs are one of the many species that are being tested as part of the Gladstone Harbour fish health investigation," he said.

"A common shell erosion, which is known to occur in crustaceans across Queensland, has been identified on some crabs already tested."

"Further samples of crabs from the Gladstone area were collected by Fisheries Queensland officers last week.

"These samples have been provided to Biosecurity Queensland for laboratory testing."

Fisheries Queensland said if a fisher finds any fish or crustacean species showing ill health, they should call the department on 13 25 23.