The scheme explained by GPC chief executive Leo Zussino basically offers eligible fishers the equivalent of 1.5 years earnings based on their best production figures in recent years for loss of access to fishing grounds as a result of the massive Western Basin Dredging Project, but does not take into account any compensation for the ongoing fish disease. It also makes no mention of seafood businesses affected, and applications from fishers will be considered on an individual basis.
Mr Zussino maintains that the diseased seafood is linked to the floods two years ago, a theory which was recently soundly refuted by aquatic disease expert Dr Matt Landos following extensive investigations in Gladstone Harbour. He found that the disease problem was most likely linked to the dredging.
Commercial fisher Trevor Falzon has described the GPC offer as a slap in the face, and owner of the Gladstone Seafood Markets, Ted Whittingham, said it was a token offer, given the volume of diseased seafood still being caught in the harbour.
The GPC's clumisly worded media release can be read in full here http://www.gpcl.com.au/Portals/0/2012%20media%20releases/19_December_2012_GPC_to_compensate_commercial_fishers.pdf
SALLY SARA: Gladstone's commercial fishing industry has rejected millions of dollars in compensation for a dredging project in central Queensland. Gladstone Harbour is being transformed to make way for the growing liquefied natural gas industry. The local fishing industry is being compensated for reduced access in parts of the harbour as the project develops. But fishermen say they should also be compensated for an outbreak of diseased fish which they blame on the dredging. Stephanie Smail reports. STEPHANIE SMAIL: The port of Gladstone is shaping up to be one of Australia's busiest liquefied natural gas hubs. To make way for the new industry, the harbour is undergoing one of the biggest dredging operations ever attempted inshore from the Great Barrier Reef. The project was only given approval if fishermen were promised compensation for reduced access to the area. The Gladstone Ports Corporation's chief executive, Leo Zussino, announced the package today. LEO ZUSSINO: For those fishers who have fished in the affected areas around the Western Basin, they will effectively receive one and a half years of their gross revenue as compensation for this temporary loss of access because of the dredging project. STEPHANIE SMAIL: But Mr Zussino stresses the compensation has nothing to do with the outbreak of sick fish in Gladstone Harbour last year. Local fishermen blamed dredging and development in the harbour when fish with sores, rashes and infected eyes were found in the region. More than 60 affected fishermen and business operators lodged a multimillion dollar compensation claim, but it was rejected by the courts. Leo Zussino says there is no scientific evidence linking the dredging and the diseased fish. LEO ZUSSINO: We will put all of our weight on that scientific evidence, and very clearly there were diseased fish in Gladstone Harbour. From all the information we have been given, it all related to the barramundi that came over the Awoonga Dam and the lack of food and the stressed conditions and the lack of salinity in Gladstone Harbour. And so we accept that, but it wasn't caused by the dredging project. STEPHANIE SMAIL: Gladstone's commercial fishing industry has rejected the Ports Corporation's compensation package. Local fisherman Trevor Falzon says it's not enough money and he won't bother applying for it. TREVOR FALZON: It's just not worth it in its form now. If GCP (Gladstone Ports Corporation) come up with a better offer, we're willing to negotiate. But the thing is, GCP have released it today just before Christmas, thinking it was a merry Christmas for all the commercial fisherman - in fact, it was just a slap in the face. STEPHANIE SMAIL: He insists there is evidence linking the dredging to the diseased fish and says ultimately, the Gladstone Ports Corporation is to blame. TREVOR FALZON: They've just got their heads in the sand and don't want to know anything about it because they do realise what they're up against as far as compensation for not only commercial fishermen but anybody who has anything to do with this development, who worked on the harbour. They know they're liable for that. STEPHANIE SMAIL: Applications for compensation will be assessed from early next year. But many in Gladstone's commercial fishing industry have vowed to keep fighting to prove the diseased fish outbreak was linked to the dredging. They're determined to win the compensation package they say they deserve.