New scientific report blames dredging for fish problems

Dredge boats in Gladstone Harbour.
Dredge boats in Gladstone Harbour. Brenda Strong

A NEW scientific report claims fish health problems in Gladstone Harbour are "most likely" caused by the major dredging project under way.

Veterinary scientist Dr Matt Landos worked on the report in 2012 and it was released to the public on Thursday.

"Considering the weight of available evidence on the potential causes of observed aquatic animal health disorders in Gladstone, (this report) considers these disorders are most likely to be a direct consequence of the Western Basin Dredging and Disposal Project," the report states.

Dr Landos told The Observer he had gathered evidence showing dissolved metals in the harbour had damaged the health of aquatic animals.

Dr Landos's conclusions contradict those of government departments monitoring the harbour.

Download the full report here;

The reaction

The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) on Friday said it would be reviewing Dr Landos's report and until it had a chance to go over the details, could not comment.

The department stood by its own testing.

"Results of sampling in 2012 (by Fisheries Queensland) indicated that fish health in Gladstone was much improved from 2011," a Fisheries Queensland spokesperson said.

The Gladstone Ports Corporation was quick to attack Dr Landos' report, saying it was in "direct conflict with the growing mountain of scientific and circumstantial evidence showing no links between dredging and disease in fish."

GPC chief executive Leo Zussino said the GPC is committed to ensuring the Western Basin Dredging and Disposal Project was conducted within "strict conditioning guidelines set by the project approval conditions to ensure minimum impact on the marine life in Gladstone Harbour".

"The extensive independent environmental water quality monitoring program for the WBDDP shows no visible or scientific signs of any negative impact from changes in water quality to date," Mr Zussino said.

"The Water Quality Monitoring Program in the Gladstone Harbour is world's best practice.

"Independent scientists from Vision Environment, University of Technology Sydney and Marine Ecology Group collect water quality samples and analyse the results.

"Their activity is overseen by the Dredge Technical Reference Panel appointed by the Federal Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities.

The report

Dr Landos' report was commissioned by the Gladstone Fishing Research Fund. The organisation was set up by three people who work in the commercial fishing industry. It gathered donations from the commercial fishing industry and the general public

In his conculsion, Dr Landos said:

In considering the weight of available evidence on the potential causes of observed aquatic animal health disorders in Gladstone, FFVS considers these disorders are most likely to be a direct consequence of the Western Basin Dredging and Disposal Project. Specific mechanisms include:

  • resuspension and mobilisation of contaminants (metals and metalloids) from sediments;
  • increased parasitism due to stress, immunosuppression and external irritation from poor water quality and toxicosis;
  • increased boat traffic vessel strike risk;
  • noise; and
  • generation of toxic algal blooms due to disturbance of sediments and release of nitrogen, iron and other nutrients.

Topics:  dredging dr matt landos fish gladstone harbour health report western basin

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