A FRESH twist has emerged in the battle over Gladstone Harbour. New data has been released showing the weight and value of crab catches in the Gladstone area in recent years.
The release of the data is the latest development in an ongoing dispute over compensation for commercial fishermen in the region, who claim to have been impacted by the dredging project The data shows 2011 was one of the best years (in terms of total weight) during the past six years.
The data, and its interpretation, is important in the argument over whether the harbour's sea life has been reduced by dredging.
Data is total from grid S30. (Grid S30 is an area including Gladstone Harbour and a large area of water outside the harbour.) Data is from Fisheries Queensland.
The figures provided indicate that on a yearly basis, 2011 was a good year for crabbers.
Gladstone Ports Corporation declined to comment on its own interpretation of the data, but its release appears to show that crab stocks in the harbour are not as damaged as previously thought.
The key to the data is its interpretation.
Not everybody agrees that the numbers point to a healthy harbour.
Gladstone Fish Market owner Ted Whittingham said while the numbers look as though dredging did not impact the year's catch, a closer examination of the data was needed.
He said a year-by-year breakdown of the figures was not sufficient and for a true interpretation of the data, it needed to be broken into 6-month periods, because the major dredging began in May.
He said a six-month breakdown showed the second half of 2011 had been significantly worse than the first.
Mr Whittingham provided the following data concerning crab catches through his wholesale facility.
|July-December 2009||21,000 kg|
|July-December 2010||21,500 kg|
|July-December 2011||10,000 kg|
Mr Whittingham said the second half of 2011 had seen a dramatic drop in crabs coming through his business. He said in the first half of 2011, about 32 tonnes of crab had been processed, whereas in the second half of the year, that figure dropped to 10 tonnes.
Queensland Seafood Industry Association CEO Winston Harris agreed the data needed to be broken into 6-month periods to be interpreted accurately.
"Unfortunately that data set (from Fisheries) is really too broad to provide any real guide about what has been happening with harvest rates," he said.