Qld Non-government scientist's investigation welcomed

The Queensland Greens have welcomed an independent scientist's investigation into the health of fish in Gladstone Harbour.

Dr Matt Landos has been employed by community members who have been concerned about the health of the harbour since local dredging began for massive port expansions for coal and coal seam gas export infrastructure.

"The Queensland Greens have been warning about the failure of DERM (Department of Environment Resource Management) to enforce the licensing conditions of the dredging operations on public holidays," Queensland Greens state spokesperson Libby Connors said today.

"The high turbidity on Christmas day and Australia Day had negative implications for human health as well as marine health but DERM failed to alert recreational users including fishers who were out on the harbour on these days.

"Now a non-government scientist has warned that Gladstone fish are not fit for human consumption.

"This position is consistent with the latest Fisheries Queensland Habitat and Assessment survey released 19 January which shows that 46% of barramundi caught by its officers in the Gladstone region showed signs of disease."

The Queensland Greens said that environment medicine specialist Dr Andrew Jeremijenko had informed the party that there was a risk that the remaining 54% of fish could be 'pre-clinical", ie that they were not yet showing measurable signs of disease. Dr Jeremijenko said that a muddy harbour is a rich source for bacteria to fester, with lots of nutrients (food to eat) and sediment (a substrate to live in).

"Muddy water is unhealthy for humans and for fish. Fishermen are more prone to skin infections and sick fish should not be eaten." Greens spokesperson Libby Connors said that the Gladstone Fish Health Scientific Advisory Panel Report in early January had warned that marine wildlife health is an excellent indicator of environmental health.

"So the response from Gladstone Ports Corporation and Fisheries Minister Craig Wallace that all the advice they are getting is that the Harbour is fine does not hold up.

The Greens state that the Coordinator-General should never have approved the massive port expansion in the first place as the Environmental Impact Statements were voluminous and indicated that there would be negative effects on wildlife ranging from water pollution right through to excessive underwater noise.

"The state government assured the public that the project would not cause harm because they were going to enforce the highest of environmental conditions on the projects but its record so far has been arbitrary.

"Ministers and departmental heads have preferred to "spin" all the reports presented so far rather than put human and environmental health first." She called on the LNP to tell the Queensland public what they would do to fix the problems in Gladstone Harbour.

"So far all the LNP have been prepared to state publicly is that they will insist on compensation to the fishermen.  But this issue is more than just a fishing issue: it is a public health problem and an indicator of state government inability to manage our world heritage special places.

"We need to know whether the LNP will have the courage to stand up for our special coastal environments.

"We fear that LNP spin will equal the current government's and multinational mining corporations will continue to set the state agenda."

Contact: Libby Connors 0429 487 110; Dr Andrew Jeremijenko 0438 372 653
Libby Connors is Queensland Greens state spokesperson and candidate for Yeerongpilly

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