No link to dredging found

The latest report into Gladstone Harbour fish problems has, once again, found no evidence of a link between dredging and fish disease.
The latest report into Gladstone Harbour fish problems has, once again, found no evidence of a link between dredging and fish disease. Brenda Strong

GLADSTONE residents may have to brace themselves for the reality that no conclusive explanation will be found for the harbour's recent fish health problems.

With UNESCO arriving in Gladstone tomorrow, and after months of testing and reporting from scientists, a final, conclusive answer has not been found to explain what went so horribly wrong in the harbour last year.

Fisheries Queensland and the Department of Environment and Resource management released their latest report on Friday, outlining the latest results from water, fish and sediment sample testing.

The results found, once again, no evidence of a link between the dredging project and fish disease.

DERM director-general Jim Reeves, who came to Gladstone on Friday to release the report, said the department was not in a position to provide conclusive answers about what caused thousands of barramundi to become sick last year, or what continues to cause red discolouration on some sharks.

"I can't draw that conclusion," Mr Reeves said, when asked if the consistent absence of evidence should be seen as proof dredging was not the culprit.

However, Mr Reeves said the testing so far had been extensive and none of the results had pointed to dredging as a cause of fish health

problems. "We cannot find in the Gladstone Harbour, anything that is exceptional in terms of the environment," he said.

In January, Independent Scientific Advisory Panel chairman Dr Ian Poiner said it was "possible" a conclusive answer would never be achieved. President of the Queensland Seafood Industry Association (QSIA) Geoff Tilton said it would be a blow to commercial fishermen if no final answer was achieved.

He said they needed clear evidence one way or another about what had damaged their livelihoods last year.

Latest report

  • No single cause has been identified for all fish health issues.
  • Noticeable decrease in the number of barramundi with eye problems and lesions.
  • Majority of other fin fish species are in good condition.
  • Sharks are still being observed with skin discolouration and naturally occurring parasites.
  • 185 crabs in the Narrows and 170 crabs at Turkey Beach were caught for testing in January. 5% displayed shell abnormalities.

To read about UNESCO's plan for Gladstone see the March 5 edition of The Observer.

Topics:  department of environment and resource management dredging fish gladstone harbour

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