From The Land
The facts read like a Crichton-esque thriller: A fish farmer’s latest brood turns out bizarre two-headed fish larvae, allegations of chemical contamination emerge and government agencies remain baffled about just what caused it.
Mystery continues to surround the the two-headed fish larvae at Gwen Gilson’s Sunland Fish Hatchery, which came to national attention this week after 90pc of her latest batch of embryos, taken from breeding stock from the Noosa River, emerged deformed, including some with two heads.
But Ms Gilson said the problem wasn’t a new one and claimed it was clear to her what was causing it: chemicals from an adjacent macadamia farm.
She and NSW veterinary expert Dr Matt Landos made a video to explain what they thought the impact from the chemicals were, including reducing the catch from the Noosa River and causing health effects in people.
“Over two years ago, we noticed that after the spraying drifted over our ponds, our next batch had convulsions and every time we have used water that has been exposed to the (Carbendazim) spray, we have the same results,” Ms Gilson said.
Ms Gilson said that ever since, she has had problems with contaminated water on the site affecting the hatchlings.
“This time, we went to the river to get wild stock and this has happened.
“We still can’t use the water from the site and can only get normal births by using water from our other site or treating them with atropine.”
Carbendazim products are used for the control of mould, spot, mildew, scorch, rot and blight in a variety of crops including cereals, fruit (pome, stone, citrus, currants, strawberries, bananas, pineapples, mangoes, avocados), as well as macadamia production.
Australian Macadamia Society CEO Jolyon Burnett said no other cases like this had been reported near macadamia farms and the chemicals used by farmers were thoroughly regulated.
“Macadamia farmers often have their families on the farm and they wouldn’t spray anything that would have serious health effects on their children,” he said.
Initial Department of Primary Industries have so far found the adjacent farms complied with the regulations on Carbendazim limits, a spokesman said.
A spokesman for the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts Minister Peter Garret said the Department Environment had been asked for an evaluation of whether Carbendazim or another chemical is implicated in the reported fish kills and deformities.
Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority spokesman Simon Cubit said the regulations on the fungicide had been under review and if Carbendazim, which is banned in New Zealand for a different use, was found to play a role that would play a critical role in determining whether restrictions would be tightened.
Despite all the speculation, the DPI, which is investigating the matter, along with EPA and local authorities, says dietary, and other environmental factors haven’t been ruled out.
“So far we haven’t had any traces of the Carbendazim in the water samples taken from the river,” an EPA spokesman said today.
Acting Premier Paul Lucas said people should not jump to conclusions until the bizarre incident is thoroughly investigated, as the appearance might be a natural genetic variation.
So as to what caused the two-headed fish hatchlings, only time and solid science will tell.