Wednesday, November 9, 2011

In pictures: Mystery marine disease off Gladstone killing sharks

Fishing in the World Heritage-listed waters off the coast of Gladstone is a business for many and a popular pastime for locals, but ever since the outbreak of disease in marine life, the industry there has been in panic mode.

An unprecedented number of fish with red spots, lesions and parasites, as well as dead dugongs and turtles, have been found this year.

Fishermen and conservationists blame the state of the marine life on dredging to widen Gladstone Harbour to accommodate carrier ships servicing the booming liquefied natural gas and coal seam gas industries.

But the Gladstone Port Corporation does not believe the dredging is causing the disease in fish, and authorities say last year's wet summer may be a factor in the poor health of the harbour.

Water testing shows a number of sites within the harbour exceeded national guidelines for aluminium, copper and chromium. Experts say the levels pose a minimal risk to marine life; however, the Queensland Government has appointed an independent scientific panel to conduct more research. View photo gallery here