Chemical concerns

Gwen Gilson at her Boreen Point fish hatchery.
Gwen Gilson at her Boreen Point fish hatchery. Geoff Potter Nb

FISH hatchery owner Gwen Gilson had enough trouble dealing with two-headed fish, then came along a three-tailed genetic freak show last year.

But it is what she sees as a double standard by the chemical spray watchdog that has really rocked her.

Ms Gilson, who operates the Sunland Freshwater Fish Hatchery at Boreen Point, cannot understand why a suspect fungicide found in Lake Cootharaba samples has not been completely banned.

The Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority, after a recent review, banned the use of carbendazim on grapes, melons, citrus fruits, custard apples, mangoes, pome fruits, stone fruits and turf.

But the APVM still allows this chemical, which has been found to cause male infertility in some animals, to be sprayed on the macadamia trees growing on a neighbouring property.

Ms Gilson believes spray drift is the most likely cause of the hatchling deformities and for her suffering severe diarrhoea at times.

She was so confounded by the official directive after the chemical review, she wrote to the APVM seeking an explanation.

Her email to the authority was brief and to the point.

“If you now no longer allow the spraying of carbendazim on turf, when we do not eat turf, why is it okay to keep spraying macadamia nuts in Australia when people eat them?

“Carbendazim is one chemical found in the Noosa River system, and the Noosa River system is producing fish embryos and fry with two heads and one tail and two and three tails and one head, from two separate species over two separate years.”

The species were Australian bass and yellow belly.

APVM spokesman Dr Simon Cubit said in response that turf posed a greater risk to children.

“Turf uses were ruled out because potential dermal exposure and/or hand-to-mouth ingestion by young children playing on freshly sprayed turf could lead to potential intakes above the relevant health standard,” Dr Cubit said.

“Some horticultural uses were ruled out on the basis that the maximum residue levels (MRLs) set for those crops did not meet the criteria for assessment against the new safety standards set as part of the carbendazim review.

“MRLs for macadamia nuts and some other crops met the safety criteria, thus the use of carbendazim in these crops and situations is still approved.”

An earlier APVM release said the review of this fungicide was ongoing.

“A preliminary review findings report will be published when all assessments have been completed. Additional regulatory actions may be proposed in this report,” the release said.

Ms Gilson said she had suffered health problems after showering using tank water on her property.

“I feel like I am just getting sicker and sicker,” she said.

The Noosa Fish Health Investigation Taskforce is investigating the hatchery fish deaths and abnormalities.

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