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What is the APVMA doing about the incidents at the Sunland Fish Hatchery in Noosa?

26 March 2010
Updated 11 & 31 May 2010

The Queensland Government is investigating the events at the fish hatchery. It established the Noosa Fish Health Investigation Taskforce in 2009. The APVMA is not a member of this Taskforce but has offered support and provided technical assistance to the investigation. To date, the Taskforce has not found hard evidence that agricultural chemicals might have been involved. Once the taskforce has released its final report, the APVMA will determine if and what regulatory action it will take.

More detail

The Queensland Government Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation (DEEDI) has responsibility for pesticide use in Queensland. When concerns were raised about possible chemical contamination issues at the fish hatchery, the relevant Minister asked DEEDI to establish a special taskforce to investigate the issue. Terms of reference and membership (external site) of the Taskforce were agreed. It is chaired by Dr Jim Thompson, Director, Biosecurity Services (DEEDI).

One of the key areas of investigation is whether spray drift from adjacent properties or any other form of chemical contamination caused the number of problems observed at the hatchery. Given this possibility, the APVMA has taken a keen interest in the investigation. It has offered its technical expertise and, in this capacity, provided some spray drift modelling for the Taskforce.

Thus far the Taskforce has released a number of communiqués and two interim reports. In those reports, the Taskforce has indicated there is no direct evidence of any causal link between chemical contamination and any of the identified problems. In the most recent report it suggested that 'it is highly unlikely that there is a single cause of the observed syndrome but a combination of factors is likely to be operating'.

In a communication to the APVMA in November 2009, the Taskforce ruled out endosulfan as a potential cause of deaths and deformities at the Sunland Fish Hatchery in the six events being investigated. Endosulfan was not used by the neighbouring macadamia property during the period under investigation. Furthermore, environmental monitoring of water from the Noosa River and its feeder lakes indicated that endosulfan was not present at concentrations that would be harmful to aquatic life.

Other views have been expressed that exposure to a suite of chemical toxins is responsible for the problems observed at the hatchery.

Following the release of the taskforce's final report, the APVMA will publish a statement detailing our response.

Contact the Noosa Fish Health Investigation Taskforce

Phone: (07) 3404 6999