Testing restricted to barramundi

OBSERVERS told by the government to gather diseased fish specimens from Gladstone Harbour were ordered to confine their studies to barramundi, according to an affidavit filed in the Rockhampton District Court last week.

The affidavit was filed as part of a class action that Gladstone fisherman Trevor Falzon applied for against the State Government and the Gladstone Ports Corporation.

In the document, Mr Falzon wrote that he saw an increase in fish displaying lesions and signs of ill health, from about 2% of his catch in July last year, to about 35% near the end of August 2011.

He wrote that on eight occasions during October and December 2011 and last month, he took observers from DEEDI out on his vessel to "gather data and samples as part of the Government's monitoring program", after a ban on fishing was imposed and then lifted in the harbour.

Mr Flazon wrote: "On each of these trips in the harbour I netted a variety of different types of fish and sharks which displayed lesions, rashes and ulcerated flesh.

"On each occasion the DEEDI observers retained only the diseased barramundi for examination and threw back the other species.

"Each time I asked the observers to take the other species for testing in Brisbane they replied that their instruction were to confine their studies to barramundi."

A spokeswoman for Fisheries Queensland said it was inappropriate for the State Government to comment on an action before the courts.

The latest fish health test results from the State Government show that fish caught in and outside the harbour area with good health increased from 32% in October last year to 54% in December 2011.

Government reports on problems with fish health in Gladstone show visual monitoring was completed on barramundi and other fin fish, scallops, prawns, sharks and rays since the fishing ban was lifted on October 7 last year.

Mr Falzon wrote that due to the fish ban and the sullied reputation of Gladstone seafood, he was forced to shut his fishing business in September last year and recently took a job managing a petrol station to keep his income.

He is represented by Shine Lawyers, and a hearing date for the case is set for next month.

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