Gladstone region water quality reports

    In 2011, the Queensland Government set up a program to investigate fish health in Gladstone waterways. The program worked closely with the Gladstone Regional Council and key stakeholder groups to identify any specific causes for these occurrences.

    The program included investigations into fish health, water quality and human health concerns. These programs were reviewed by the Gladstone Fish Health Scientific Advisory Panel, which supported ongoing investigation.

    While there was no risk to human health, the panel was not able to provide a conclusive cause of the fish conditions observed in Gladstone Harbour and recommended further monitoring and research.

    The government's response to the panel's final report accepted the panel's recommendations for further research and implemented these through an Integrated Aquatic Investigation Program for Gladstone Harbour.

    The program was a continuation and expansion of the work already undertaken by Queensland Government agencies and the investigation reports are provided below.

    Integrated Aquatic Investigation Program

    On 16 January 2013, the Queensland Government released a report summarising the key findings of its investigation into water quality, fish and human health in and around Gladstone Harbour.

    Further to this report, samples of a wide range of fish, crustacean and mollusc species were sent for more detailed studies. These studies have been completed and, in July 2013, a Gladstone Harbour Integrated Aquatic Investigation Program Key Findings Report and the investigation reports incorporating all information from the 12-month period, September 2011 to September 2012 were released:

    Water quality

    The Integrated Aquatic Investigation Program is now complete.

    Monitoring dates

    The department conducted water quality sampling on the following dates:

    • 26–30 September 2011
    • 24–28 October 2011
    • 21–25 November 2011
    • 12–17 December 2011
    • 9–13 January 2012
    • 6–10 February 2012
    • 5–9 March 2012
    • 2–6 April 2012
    • 7–11 May 2012
    • 4–8 June 2012
    • 2–6 July 2012
    • 31 July – 3 August 2012
    • 11–14 September 2012

    Water quality reports

    The following reports on the water quality of Gladstone Harbour are available:

    Other water quality resources

    Fish health

    The fish health sampling conducted by Fisheries Queensland as part of the Integrated Aquatic Investigation Program for Gladstone Harbour was completed in September 2012. Samples of a wide range of fish, crustacean and mollusc species were provided to Biosecurity Queensland for more detailed studies. Combined with previous investigations, the Queensland Government has sampling information for a 12-month period from both within and outside the Gladstone region.

    The Gladstone Harbour fish health reports, including fish sampling and test results, are available from the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries website.

    Read the Gladstone Harbour Fish Health Investigation 2011–2012.

    External reports

    Literature review of chemically induced immunosuppression and disease susceptibility in marine wildlife

    In its final report, the Gladstone Fish Health Scientific Advisory Panel provided 14 recommendations for further research and monitoring in the areas of fish health (five), water quality (six) and human health (three).

    One of these recommendations was a comprehensive literature review on the potential of chemicals to cause the observed signs in fish and then design a test program for metals, organic chemicals and natural toxins, targeting chemicals that may be associated with the observed signs in fish.

    The National Research Centre for Environmental Toxicology (Entox) from the University of Queensland conducted this review and the subsequent report was used to develop the expanded fish and water quality investigation programs.

    Pfiesteria-like dinoflagellates (micro-algae)

    Pfiesteria-like dinoflagellates are micro-algae that feed on, attach to, or infest a wide range of marine organisms, including fish. Pfiesteria-like dinoflagellates have been suggested to cause both fish and human illness, although the role of Pfiesteria-like dinoflagellates as the primary cause of disease and mortalities in wild fish remains controversial.

    When symptoms of fish and human illness were identified in Gladstone Harbour, samples of sea water and sediment from the Gladstone area were sent to the Australian expert in the field, Dr Christopher Bolch, for testing. The report finds that Pfiesteria-like genotypes were either absent in the samples, or present at levels below the detection limits.

    Pfiesteria is therefore unlikely to have been the cause of fish and human illness in Gladstone waterways.