Monday, 18 March 2013

Science panel looks at water, not sick fish

From the Queensland Telegraph and also published at The Great Barrier Reef Blog

By John Mikkelsen
SPECULATION has been running hot over membership of the State Government’s new science panel to oversee Gladstone Harbour water quality, with claims there is no focus on the health of marine animals.
Makeup of the panel under the leadership of marine scientist Dr Ian Poiner was announced recently by Environment Minister Andrew Powell, but in local media comments, some Gladstone residents have pointed out the notable omission of a scientist who has already conducted independent research in the harbour, aquatic veterinarian  Dr Matt Landos.
Dr Landos yesterday confirmed to the Telegraph there was no one on the panel with veterinary fish health expertise.  He said the Australian and New Zealand College of Veterinary Scientists had an aquatic animal health chapter, of which he was a long term member.
“None of the members are on the panel. Only registered vets are qualified under the Veterinary Surgeons Act to make a diagnosis as an act of veterinary science.
“You go to a doctor when you are sick for a diagnosis.....not some other scientist. 

“They are obsessed with looking at indirect measures of health- for example, water quality, rather than look at the outcome- which is the animals living in the toxic soup they are creating.

“A classic case of they don’t know, what they don’t know, so a multi-disciplinary team approach is warranted…” he  said. (Dr Landos recently released a detailed scientific report on behalf of charity group, the Gladstone Fishing Research Fund, which blamed major dredging as the most likely cause of continuing disease in marine life).

Mr Powell said the science panel was tasked with providing independent expert advice about the long term management of water quality in Gladstone Harbour . It would provide open, transparent, peer-reviewed science to the Gladstone Healthy Harbour Partnership.
"The Independent Science Panel brings the key experts together at one table to integrate research and monitoring into a report card that gives a picture of the management of Gladstone Harbour and its surrounds," Mr Powell said.
He said the other panel members were chosen by Dr Poiner and were experts in their particular field. Local expertise was also being sought on the panel  from Central Queensland University.
Panel members to date include: Dr Richard Brinkman – hydrodynamics; Dr Michele Burford – biogeochemistry; Dr Rob Coles - marine biodiversity; Dr Cathy Dichmont - decision support and modeling; Dr Britta Schaffelke - water quality;Dr Jenny Stauber - marine toxicology; Dr Eva Abal - ecosystem health.
 Mr Powell said some of the first tasks the panel would undertake included mapping existing monitoring and research in the harbour to identify duplication and knowledge gaps.
"They will make recommendations to the Gladstone Healthy Harbour Partnership on actions required to address any emerging science issues.
"The group will also develop the design for future Gladstone Healthy Harbour Report Cards,” Mr Powell said.
"This is an important step that sees industry, government, research and the local community all working together to achieve and maintain a healthy Gladstone Harbour."


  1. Or you could say they don't want to know what they know they don't know; or if you don't ask, we won't tell ...

    1. Hmm, I'd say that's about right, John M.

      Else why have they not appointed at least one scientist with veterinary fish health expertise? The omission seems to me to be a bit pointed!

  2. Dr Eva Abal was the scientist who was with her assistant together with an EPA manager and his assistant when I handed them deep dredging samples at an arranged meeting at Surfers Paradise during 2000.
    It was the year the big lyngbya bloom wiped out the 30-40 sq km RAMSAR seagrass site in Moreton Bay, downstream from the Gold Coast. (It was after that event that lyngbya was identified causing damage in inshore waters of the Whitsundays, yes north of Gladstone).
    The EPA man indicated he was very worried and he thanked me for the samples. I have since been told those samples have been 'lost'. But that loss was after Qld Uni did some tests on the samples and I was given a report citing high nutrient levels.
    Dr Britte Schaffelke replied to my email when I asked in 2005 about all sources of nutrients entering GBR waters but that reply and a second reply asked me for more information but failed to answer my question. I emailed again but received no reply.
    During 2008 I emailed Dr Schafellke among others about what may may be transported north by alongshore current from the Tasmanian pulp mill. I attached quite an amount of material as evidence and my concerns re nutrient proliferated algae killing GBR coral but I have not received reply or noted any interest as expected and due.
    In other words these two scientists do know.

  3. As Donald Rumsfeld famously said a few years ago: There are known knowns; there are things we know we know.
    We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say, we know there are some things we do not know.
    But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don’t know we don’t know. ”
    —United States Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld. Maybe he could get a job with Tony Burke's department.

  4. Yes Rumsfeld, well, 100,000 plus civilian's are said to be dead from that weapons of mass destruction bogey man hunt they now know they didn't know about.
    Anyway, ignorance with intent is no excuse in a court of law, something like that.
    I wonder what the panel will do.
    This bit I will be watching:
    (copied and pasted from above)
    Mr Powell said the science panel was tasked with providing independent expert advice about the long term management of water quality in Gladstone Harbour . It would provide open, transparent, peer-reviewed science to the Gladstone Healthy Harbour Partnership.
    (end copy and paste)

    Mikko what is your take on that red on the stingray in the photo above? It looks to me like it's brushed against lyngbya in water with low - almost nil visibility, the latter due to dredging or dumping of dredge spoil.

  5. I'm no expert John CF and you could be right. There is also a pic of a big shovel nose shark (ray) red all over, which was shown to former fisheries minister Craig Wallace during a media conference in Gladstone last year. Lyngbya or acid sulphate soils? Or possibly both. Now the GPC wants to spend $1.5 million promoting Gladstone seafood. I wouldn't buy it, want to catch it, or definitely not eat it.


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