Ongoing health concerns lead to Gladstone Harbour fish boycott

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 14th October 2011

Ongoing concerns about the safety of eating fish caught in Gladstone Harbour, central Queensland, have led the owners of the city’s largest fish market to refuse fish caught in the harbour. This is despite government agencies in Queensland suggesting that the fish pose no health risk.

Last week, the Queensland Government lifted a three-week fishing ban it had previously imposed on the harbour last week. At the time, Queensland Fisheries Minister Craig Wallace claimed the results of a water quality analysis and fish testing had discounted the potential for a food safety or human health issue.

However, the owner of the Gladstone Fishing Market, Simon Whittingham said he is “appalled” at advice from the Minister of Fisheries that the fish are safe to eat. He has refused to stock any fish caught in Gladstone Harbour.

Mr Whittingham said, “I believe it to be very irresponsible to suggest and imply that fish, sick with disease, are fit for human consumption. The government agencies have simply passed the onus of responsibility on to the private sector to determine what is fit for market and what is not. I am not prepared to put human health and life at risk.

“Every fish in the 600 kilograms presented for sale on Tuesday 12 October 2011 were visually infected by red spot disease and some other infection or burn. Not only did the fisher have to dump the product but he also wore a financial loss of approximately A$4,500. This ban will stay in place until such time that I am confident that all seafood species caught within the identified area have been thoroughly tested and cleared by the authorities.”

In a statement on its website, Queensland Government’s Department for Primary Industries and Fisheries said, “From a review of the published scientific literature there is no evidence that red-spot disease or the parasitic flat worm identified in the diseased fish causes illness in humans.

“Additional testing of fish samples is continuing to assess the extent of affected fish in the Gladstone area. Fisheries Queensland has noted a decrease in the number of fish exhibiting lesions or cloudy eyes. The State Government agencies are working closely to monitor the situation and are consulting with the Queensland Seafood Industry Association and Sunfish Queensland.”