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International Society for Infectious Diseases <http://www.isid.org>

Date: Sun 25 Sep 2011
Source: The Sunday Mail (QL) [edited]

The commercial fishermen who blew the whistle on what they call an environmental disaster in Gladstone Harbour say dead fish will soon wash up on its shores. They insist sick, blind, and ulcerated fish were being pulled out of the harbour for months ahead of last week's [week of 19 Sep 2011] official ban by the State Government.

Operators say they were working alongside Queensland Fisheries officers, who were monitoring possible turtle kills, when they dragged sick and slime-covered fish from waters around Gladstone Harbour. The fishermen say the Government acted only after it was presented with an ultimatum a fortnight ago that they would go public with their concerns. The ban was slapped on 24 hours later.

A dozen fishermen have reported being ill from handling the fish, along with the pregnant wife of a deckhand and their 2 young children exposed when they met their dad when his boat was pulled ashore.

At least 2 of the fishermen have spent time in hospital, including a Tannum Sands operator who spent 5 days on a drip. He said fishermen had no option but to act, fearing children would be exposed to the toxins during the school holidays. "I couldn't walk," [the man] said.
"I spent 5 nights in the Mater Hospital in Gladstone. It cost AUD 5800 [about USD 5653]. My foot was flaming red. I had a temperature of 39 deg C [102.2 deg F]."

On Friday [23 Sep 2011], Fisheries Queensland released findings that the dead fish had been attacked by a mystery parasitic fluke that was sending them blind. They were also suffering from red spot, a disease usually found in Queensland waters after the 1st heavy rains of summer or during lean winter times.

But the cause of the outbreak was yet to be confirmed. Fisheries Queensland's Dr John Robertson said red spot disease could develop into burn-like marks, or ulcers with red centres. He said more research was needed into the parasite, which affected the eye of the fish. "We now know that this parasite is what has been causing the cloudy eyes in some barramundi in the area," he said.

Additional testing is being conducted on new samples of other fish species, prawns, and mud crabs but results are not expected for several weeks. Until then, the fishing ban remains.

A 4th-generation fisherman believed dredging was to blame. He said the fish were fine in clear reef water but became stressed as they approached Gladstone Harbour. Once in the port, they "roll" - die and go belly-up. "We are devastated at the situation here in Gladstone but we know that we have done all the right things to advise all government authorities to keep people safe," he said.

Queensland Seafood Industry Association president Michael Gardner said the dead turtles, dugongs, and fish found in the Gladstone area were "an environmental disaster." He said the sick and dead animals coincided with dredging by Gladstone Port Corporation working on the massive LNG plant and pipeline being built in the harbour.

But the port corporation says they are not to blame. Chief executive officer Leo Zussino said dredging was tightly controlled. He said the sick seafood had been fished out of the harbour before dredging began.
The corporation says the harbour has been dredged in the past without any impact on fish. Instead, it blames fresh water from the floods earlier this year [2011] hurting marine life.

Mr Zussino said the dredging had not stirred up contaminants because testing showed there were none on the harbour floor. "A lot of people say there's been contamination in Gladstone Harbour for a century.
That's simply not true," he said.

[Byline: Daniel Knowles]

Communicated by:

[Red spot disease [Epizotic Ulcerative Syndrome is quite a serious ulcerative disease of many (more than 100) species of freshwater and estuarine fish. The causative agent of red spot disease is a fungus, _Aphanomyces invadans_. The scenario described appears to be more complex than just a red spot disease outbreak in fish. Red spot disease outbreaks are associated with stress. There is also mention of environmental disruption and die-offs of other unrelated species, i.e.
dugongs (mammals) and turtles (reptilians) (see <http://news.ninemsn.com.au/national/8352059/turtles-and-dugongs-die-in-droves-derm>).
The whole ecosystem health appears to be compromised. Human health hazards from red spot disease outbreaks are related to secondary bacterial infections.

Regarding the undiagnosed parasite, if they are trematodes (flukes), they might be zoonotic (humans and animals acquire these fish-borne zoonotic trematodes infection through consumption of raw, inadequately cooked fished that harbor infective etacercariae stages), but the disease they cause does not match the report description, besides apparently the fishermen became sick from handling the fish, not eating them. - Mod.PMB]

[see also:
Epizootic ulcerative synd., fish - Australia: (QL) 20110925.2908 Epizootic ulcerative synd., fish - Canada: corr. 20110330.0983 Epizootic ulcerative synd., fish - Canada 20110326.0952] .................................................pmb/mj/pmb/lm/ll
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