Findings muddy waters further

Simon Whittingham at Gladstone Fish Market with a 600kg catch of diseased fish that he had to reject.
Simon Whittingham at Gladstone Fish Market with a 600kg catch of diseased fish that he had to reject. Chris Chan

PROFESSIONALS within the commercial fishing industry remain in a state of confusion after it emerged yesterday that red-spot disease could not be confirmed as the cause of lesions on barramundi in Gladstone Harbour.

Queensland Seafood Industry Association president Michael Gardner told The Observer the industry had to rely on the data being provided by Fisheries Queensland and Biosecurity Queensland.

He said the industry was frustrated at not having clear answers.

"The causes of the ulcerary lesions are not determined," he said.

"And the cause of rashes on sharks, stingrays and other species is also yet to be determined."

Dr Gardner expressed frustration that QSIA, as the representative of commercial fishers, had not been better included in the information cycle between various government departments.

Gladstone Seafood Market manager Simon Whittingham said he had stopped accepting fish caught in Gladstone Harbour, because of uncertainty over the condition of fish. He found out yesterday morning biosecurity testing had not positively identified red-spot disease in the harbour, even though positive tests were found in samples from Port Alma.

Mr Whittingham has been making decisions based on the understanding he was dealing with a red-spot disease outbreak, but news that it might be a different condition has caused another level of confusion.

When asked if he still thought there was red-spot disease in the harbour, despite the lack of positive results, he said he was in no position to guess what the disease was. "I can only go on the information that I am given," he said.

"I am a fishmonger and I do it very well, but I'm not a scientist and I don't run a laboratory."

He said it was difficult to make informed, professional decisions about seafood from the harbour, while the data was not settled.

"I've decided to make my own decisions and I have rejected all fish coming out of Gladstone Harbour," Mr Whittingham

"Crabs, fish, prawns, I am not interested in any supply at all (from the harbour).

"If we were to miss some contaminated or diseased product (during our checks), yes (I would be worried about consumer health).

"But we have a very thorough inspection process and everything that comes through here now, each piece is closely scrutinised to make sure it is healthy."

Flood of data

  •  Fisheries Queensland continues to collect fish samples for testing.
  •  The department reiterated its finding that no link has been established between the fish disease and human health concerns.
  •  All the fish caught with lesions were found to have the parasitic flatworm (fluke).
  •  The Biosecurity Queensland report, along with other reports, can be found at DPI.

Topics:  confusion fishing industry gladstone harbour

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