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    Agriculture, Food and Regional Economies
    The Honourable Tim Mulherin

    Noosa fish health final investigation report released

    Agriculture, Food and Regional Economies
    The Honourable Tim Mulherin

    Wednesday, June 08, 2011

    Noosa fish health final investigation report released

    The Minister for Agriculture, Food and Regional Economies, Tim Mulherin, today released the Final Report of the Noosa Fish Health Investigation Taskforce.

    The taskforce was set up in January 2009 to investigate a range of fish health problems at the Sunland Fish Hatchery, including fish deaths and abnormalities.

    “It was alleged that these issues, and broader problems associated with the Noosa River, were caused by chemical spray drift from an adjoining macadamia farm,” the Minister said.

    “It had been my intention to release this report when it was completed a year ago, but I was unable to due to outstanding legal obstacles. These have now been resolved which means I am able to provide the report to the courts and the public.”

    Minister Mulherin said these types of investigations were complex and it was difficult to identify a specific cause.

    “Overall, the investigation found that there was no definitive link between chemicals and the events that occurred at the hatchery or in the Noosa River.

    “While agricultural chemicals may be a contributing factor in some of the events that were investigated, other factors like fish diseases and parasites, water quality, past environmental contaminants and hatchery management practices cannot be ruled out as the primary cause.

    “When this process began I warned that it would be long and complicated, and that there may never be definitive findings.”

    Minister Mulherin said the findings contained in the final report represented the majority view of taskforce members.

    “The taskforce was not unanimous on the conclusions, but this is not unexpected given the size and complexity of the investigations that were undertaken,” he said.

    “However, taking this into account, I commissioned a further analysis of the report findings through independent experts.

    “Toxikos, a toxicology consultancy firm based in Melbourne, was commissioned in late 2010 to provide advice on whether the final report conclusions were reasonable.

    “Toxikos found that the report had reached a reasonable set of conclusions and agreed it is not possible to identify a chemical cause for the events at the Hatchery.

    “This independent report will also be released today.”

    The final taskforce report makes 29 recommendations related to biosecurity practices on both the hatchery and macadamia farm, chemical labeling and review, monitoring of fish stocks in Noosa River, clarification of roles and responsibilities for spray drift incidents, land use planning, and ongoing research.

    “The government will now work with the identified stakeholders to progress these recommendations,” the Minister said.

    “For government, the recommendations focus on clarifying roles and responsibilities, continued water monitoring at the hatchery, monitoring of bass stocks in the Noosa River and research.

    "A number of actions have begun. A revised statement of roles and responsibilities of various agencies involved in the management of spray drift complaints has been published on the web and the first spawning trial on broodstock has been conducted at Bribie Island Research Centre.

    "Now that the report is public, we will be working with industry and scientific organisations to design and fund a suitable research program into possible impacts of chemicals, or combinations of chemicals, on native fish. Spawning trials will also continue.

    "Another recommendation was that we provide our final report to the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) for its consideration. We will be acting on this immediately now that the report has been released.”

    Biosecurity Queensland’s Chief Biosecurity Officer, Dr Jim Thompson, who chaired the taskforce, said it had been a lengthy and thorough investigation that had considered other possible causes of fish health problems like genetics, environmental factors, infection, nutrition, non-pesticide toxins and husbandry factors.

    “I thank all of the taskforce members for their efforts,” he said.

    “Biosecurity Queensland has continued to provide advice to the hatchery and the macadamia business owners as to how their enterprises can co-exist.

    “Biosecurity Queensland also continues to investigate incidents of animal health issues at the hatchery as they are reported. To date, no evidence has come to light to change the final report’s conclusions.”

    The taskforce included officers from Biosecurity Queensland, DERM, Queensland Health, an independent eco-toxicologist, a private veterinarian, and representatives from industry bodies Growcom, the Aquaculture Association of Queensland and the Australian Macadamia Association.

    The report is available at

    Media: 3239 6530