Turtle expert weighs in on harbour health debate
QUEENSLAND'S most respected scientist specialising in turtles has not backed claims by another scientist that turtles in Gladstone Harbour have died from arsenic poisoning.
Dr Col Limpus, who is the chief scientist aquatic threatened species for the Department of Environment and Heritage Protecion, re-affirmed the finding that a spate of turtle deaths in Gladstone Harbour in 2011 was caused by malnutrition after seagrass meadows were damaged by floods.
Aquatic veterinarian Dr Matt Landos has accused Gladstone Ports Corporation of refusing to release results of toxicity testing, which shows high levels of arsenic in the bold of green turtles.
There is agreement by all sides that green turtles in the area were found to have high levels of arsenic, but in recent years, reports by EHP and other organisations have argued it was caused by the geography of the area and there was no evidence it was dangerously high for turtles.
Dr Limpus' entry into the debate will be significant, since he is revered among marine scientists as well as the conservation community.
He said "no major pollution issue has been identified from this study for turtles".
"When viewed in parallel with the health assessment report examining the same turtles, there is a clear case that the most significant issue regarding these turtles was malnutrition," Dr Limpus said.
He also said the toxicology tests showing high arsenic levels were conducted before the "intense" dredging began in the harbour.
"Given that this toxicology sampling was done before most of the current intense dredging began within Port of Gladstone, it would be useful for the measurement of the contaminants in turtle tissue recorded in this study to be used as a background data-set for comparison against samples taken in the future."