"Yesterday’s announcement by the Chief Executive of Gladstone Ports Corporation, Leo Zussino advising that there is no scientific basis or any link between the Gladstone dredging project and diseased fish and today’s announcement by the Queensland Fisheries Minister, Craig Wallace that the three week fishing ban in Gladstone has been lifted is totally predictable, as it aims to exonerate the Gladstone Port Authority and the Queensland Government of any compensation due to the fishing industry", Senator Boswell said.
Whilst it maybe convenient for the Bligh Government to brush this under the carpet it is too early to provide clearance to the Gladstone Harbour as the investigations to date are incomplete and there are too many questions that need to be answered.
"It is for this reason that today I have placed a Question on Notice to the Federal Environment Minister, Tony Burke asking him to investigate if the Harbour has been tested for toxins and for Bacteria", Senator Boswell said.
As the Minister responsible for the EPBC Act it is crucial that the Tony Burke step up and monitor this issue closely. The health of the aquatic animals in the region and the health of local fisherman and processors are at stake. It is imperative that the Minister and his department determine if the levels of Bacteria identified in the Harbour are the same type of Bacteria as the legions recently found on local fisherman.
On the Monday, Dr Michael Gardiner the Queensland Seafood Industry Association President and I met with 70 local fishermen in Gladstone. Some of the fishermen were able to show us first hand the sores and legions they had contracted from diseased fish and contaminated nets. Queensland Health appears to have examined different Fishermen to the ones I met on Monday.
We were informed by the fisherman that prior to the commencement of dredging in April that there were significant catches of prawns, bugs, scallops and fish in the region and that as many as 20 tonnes of Banana prawns had been caught outside of Gladstone in March.
Since dredging commenced in April there have been high amounts of dredging spoil which is located very close to prawn, bug and scallops fisheries and as a result there have been very little product caught.
Fisherman have been unable to work for three weeks and it will be doubtful with the large number of dredges working the harbour as to whether there will be a viable supply of fish in adjacent water.
With the water quality still in question it is vital that Tony Burke ensures that that the nature of the scientific tests in the Gladstone Harbour and the data from the tests are made available to the public and that his department monitor the impact of dredging and dumping of spoil near the Great Barrier Reef.
"The process going forward must be transparent and the Department must ensure that the data from test results in the Gladstone Harbour are independently audited so that we can get to the bottom of the causes of fish diseases and the fishermen’s legions and sores", Senator Boswell said.