Science or spin?

Gladstone Harbour testing shows it’s not “toxic”, however, Erin Brockovich says she is worried about destruction of the harbour.
Gladstone Harbour testing shows it’s not “toxic”, however, Erin Brockovich says she is worried about destruction of the harbour. Brenda Strong

THE fish health saga on Gladstone Harbour has become a celebrity cause, but is scientific evidence drowning in a sea of cliches?

Erin Brockovich appeared on Channel 7's Today Tonight last week to voice her concerns over what she believes is the destruction of Gladstone Harbour by the controversial dredging project.

Ms Brockovich is the celebrity face of Shine Lawyers, which is representing a large group of commercial fishermen in a legal fight for compensation from the Gladstone Ports Corporation.

She has a decorated history of fighting environmental lawsuits in the United States and Shine Lawyers are hoping her support can turn the tide in their favour.

Ms Brockovich's appearance on television did not contain any evidence to back her claims and the program did not provide any response from Gladstone Ports Corporation or the relevant government departments.

Today Tonight yesterday told The Observer they had not sought a scientific response to her claims, because the story was "not an investigation into the harbour dredging".

Instead, it was a story about "a celebrity environmentalist".

Shine Lawyers and Gladstone commercial fisherman Trevor Falzon commented in the show to back up Ms Brockovich's claims.

An Environment and Heritage Protection spokesman yesterday reiterated there was no evidence of toxicity in the harbour.

"The latest water quality sampling is consistent with historical trends, apart from the impacts of the January 2011 floods, resulting in lower salinity levels, which was also seen in other parts of the state," he said.

"The measured water quality parameters and their variation are consistent with expectations for a highly dynamic, urbanised and industrial harbour and port."


Joining the fight

Asked what scientific evidence it was relying on, Shine Lawyers said it had gathered a number of affidavits from fisherman, local business owners, scientists and the QSIA in support of the case.

They will also rely on recent findings from UNESCO's investigations into the development surrounding the Great Barrier Reef and "photographic evidence of the diseased marine life".

Shine Lawyers said Erin Brockovich's next trip to Australia would "very well include a visit to Gladstone".

Topics:  erin brockovich gladstone harbour media science shine lawyers tv

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