Owner of fish hatchery seeks compo

A $2 million compensation claim has been lodged in the Queensland Supreme Court by the owner of a Noosa fish hatchery who alleges agricultural spray drift has ruined her business and her health.

Sunland Fish Hatchery’s Gwen Gilson on Wednesday filed the legal suit against the owner and operator of a neighbouring Boreen Point macadamia farm she blames for major fish kills and birth deformities.

These include two-headed and three-tailed fish embryos, as well as some with extruding stomachs.

Ms Gilson’s legal team at Shine Lawyers also called for an immediate ban on the fungicide carbendazim in Australia and were seeking a ruling that the chemicals had wreaked genetic havoc on her fish stock.

This was after Ms Gilson aired her frustrations over a prolonged battle to stop the fish kills and mutations on the ABC’s 7.30 Report on Tuesday.

In that program she revealed the ongoing battle for the State Government investigating taskforce to sort out the cause of the contamination had taken a toll, and she may be forced to shut down the hatchery.

“It’s absolutely devastating,” she told the ABC.

On Wednesday she further revealed the alleged impacts of the contamination.

“I’ve lost three horses, the family dog, and had literally millions of fish killed by the pesticides and fungicides.

“I’ve had problems diagnosed with my liver, and talking to other neighbours, they’re experiencing unusual health problems too. It seems we’re all being poisoned.”

Shine Lawyers solicitor Rebecca Jancauskas said carbendazim was a fungicide known to cause birth defects in humans, and claimed it had been detected at the hatchery.

Ms Jancauskas said the chemical was banned in countries throughout the world and was voluntarily removed from the US market by DuPont almost a decade ago. She said there was a lack of appropriate warnings on these products.

“This has to serve as a wake-up call to the Australian Pesticides’ regulator,” Ms Jancauskas said.

“We need to follow the lead of other countries and completely ban this harmful chemical.”

Ms Gilson’s lawyers will argue that the farmer operators failed their responsibility to ensure harmful chemicals did not drift into the hatchery.

Ms Gilson also claimed there were impacts from chemicals in the nearby Noosa River system, which was fed by the outflow of Cooloothin Creek that runs past the macadamia plantation and hatchery.

“I have captured male fish from the river system and attempted to breed with them, but they’ve produced severely deformed embryos,” she said.

Farmer Troy Ziesemer told the Noosa News he felt he had done everything possible to prevent spray drift or pesticide contamination. Mr Ziesemer said he felt this latest action would finally settle the dispute.

However, he said he would be taking legal action against Ms Gilson and TV program 60 Minutes for defamation. The Australian Macadamia Society (AMS) said it was disappointed legal action had been taken.

AMS chief executive officer Jolyon Burnett said the neighbouring farmer was using pesticides responsibly.

“Obviously this sort of publicity is not good. I believe we have an unparalleled record of both food safety and good environmental practice.”

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