Experts investigate fishy business

Dr Matt Landos.
Dr Matt Landos.

More bass at the Sunland Freshwater Fish Hatchery at Boreen Point have died recently and two sick horses were removed from the property on veterinary advice according to fisheries expert Dr Matt Landos.

Dr Landos, who is a member of the Noosa Fish Health Investigation Taskforce looking into fish deaths and deformities at the hatchery and river system, said laboratory tests were “suggestive of the involvement of a toxin”.

“According to Biosecurity Queensland DPI reports, more bass have died in September associated with spraying events,” Dr Landos said.

“Residue testing found low levels of spray chemicals in ponds and water tanks of the fish hatchery and neighbouring properties.

“The vast bulk of larvae from the same spawning which were kept in ponds on another property free from spray drift were completely normal and unaffected.”

Dr Landos suggests the evidence continues to point to spray drift from a nearby farm as a key component cause.

He said chemical products were used according to the label by the farmer and extra precautions had been taken to leave a buffer of unsprayed trees.

“These measures appear to have been inadequate in the view of the veterinary report to protect the sensitive fish larvae, throwing into doubt the validity of the risk assessment of the Commonwealth regulator the APVMA (Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority), who registered the chemicals in the first place,” Dr Landos said.

“Health complaints from nearby residents, such as headaches and nausea, have been lodged as adverse events with the APVMA.

“Two horses were removed from the property on the advice of Biosecurity Queensland vet, which had developed unusual neurological signs with unusual gaits. Both horses recovered spontaneously once removed from the property.”

Dr Landos said blood tests of one horse showed recovery from liver damage once the horse was removed from the Sunland site.

He said the Environment Protection Agency put passive samplers into the Noosa River system, in July/August this year and found widespread carbendazim contamination at low levels in seven of nine sites.

“They also detected low levels of endosulfan sulphate in the middle of Lake Cootharaba.

“These chemicals are known reproductive toxins.

“As recently as June this year, the APVMA changed the labels on carbendazim products to reflect this danger advising pregnant women to avoid all contact.”

Dr Landos said on October 16 an international meeting of experts decided that endosulfan met all the criteria for being a persistent organic pollutant, which will see it added to a list of notoriously toxic compounds such as DDT and dieldrin.

“This will likely lead to a global ban in around 12 months,” he said. “Curiously Australia’s regulator the APVMA continues to support the use of the chemical, suggesting it is safe under Australian conditions.

“The rest of the world’s scientists on the committee disagreed – the entire regulation system is in need of an overhaul.”

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