GPC: Response on Dr Matt Landos Report (Australia)
The Gladstone Ports Corporation believes Dr Matt Landos final report titled ‘Investigation of the causes of aquatic animal health problems in the Gladstone harbour and near-shore waters’ is in direct conflict with the growing mountain of scientific and circumstantial evidence showing no links between dredging and disease in fish.
Gladstone Ports Corporation (GPC) Chief Executive Officer Leo Zussino said the GPC is committed to ensuring the Western Basin Dredging and Disposal Project (WBDDP) continues to be 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.
“Dr Matt Landos’ report has been commissioned by the Gladstone Fishing Research Fund which has been financially supported by a small group of commercial fishers in the Gladstone harbour to support a compensation action represented by Shine Lawyers and Law Essentials.
“However, the first correspondence from Law Essentials noting wide scale fish health issues is dated 20 May 2011, the day the WBDDP began!!. This clearly shows even by their own records that the fish health issues started well before GPC’s dredging project.
“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. To date all scientific evidence shows the WBDDP is not responsible for the fish health issues on a number of points.”
• The Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage Protection (EHP) has conducted several reviews of water quality data to date. These updates have all concluded there are no changes in water quality attributed to dredging nor given rise to fish health issues experienced in Gladstone.
• The latest Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage Protection (EHP) report (September 2012) states monitoring of the Gladstone harbour has shown that the dredging is not a major source of dissolved metal concentrations.
• Fisheries Queensland investigation into fish health issues concluded in September 2012 that “fish health in Gladstone had much improved from 2011,” which was at a time when dredging had significantly increased in the Gladstone harbour.
• CSIRO released a report in May 2012 on the results of sampling metal concentrations in the Gladstone harbour. The team of CSIRO scientists reported they found no evidence of increased dissolved metal concentrations in the areas of Port Curtis that are being dredged and total metal concentrations in the seafloor sediment samples were below ANZECC guideline values for all metals. By that stage, 4.5 million cubic metres of dredging had occurred.
• Biosecurity Queensland reports have all stated the levels of metals detected in the Gladstone harbour were in a normal range and not considered to affect fish and/or human health.
• Queensland Health could not find any linkage between fish disease and human health concerns, and specifically symptoms identified in the sick fishers.
• The James Cook University (JCU) study by Drs. Caroline Petus and Michelle Devlin ‘Using satellite maps to document the extent of sediment plumes associated with dredging activity in Gladstone Port’s western basin,’ was independently reviewed by the Australian Institute of Marine Science who concluded that JCU’s approach had a number of significant limitations and is irrelevant because the dominant natural processes controlling natural variability of suspended sediment concentrations were either omitted or represented incorrectly. Further, the analysis which was intended to establish correlations between elevated sediments and dredging activities was almost entirely qualitative and did not possess the rigour of a thorough statistical analysis.
• In January 2012, the Gladstone Fish Health Scientific Advisory Panel reviewed all of the available data and reports for fish health and water quality from the Gladstone area and concluded that the data had been appropriately collected and analysed and made several recommendations regarding future water and fish sampling. It observed that “The addition of an estimated 30,000 large barramundi into an already stressed environment (floods) is likely to have caused a general environmental impact affecting barramundi and possibly other species as a result of increased competition for food, and increased harassment by predators. The panel noted the reports of disease from mud crabs and prawns concluded the incidence of bacterial infections and parasites observed were not unusual compared to previous studies in Gladstone Harbour and elsewhere.”
“If Mr Landos’ conclusions are correct, with the dredging project past its halfway point, why are there no recent reports of sick fish in Gladstone harbour.”
“Indeed in June 2012, 2,700 anglers in Australia’s largest fishing competition in Gladstone harbour could not find one diseased fish. All of the circumstantial evidence from some commercial fishers and from recreational fishers is that the seafood in Gladstone harbour is healthy. Several commercial fishers have reported sending significant tonnes of seafood from Gladstone harbour to Southern markets over the past six months,” Mr Zussino concluded.
Press Release, January 7, 2013