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Australian Seafood Supply Untainted by Oil Spill

by the Fish Site Editor
17 March 2009, at 12:00am

AUSTRALIA - Seafood consumers can rest assured that all seafood on the market in Queensland is unaffected by the oil spill near Moreton Island.

Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries Deputy Director-General Jim Groves said seafood currently on the market has been caught before the oil spill took place or from outside the affected area and all subsequent seafood caught in the affected area will now be tested before going to market.

"A meeting of the Fishing Technical Working Group which includes industry and government representatives has confirmed an action plan to ensure the quality of seafood in the wake of the oil spill," Mr Groves said.

"It is recommended that commercial operators do not fish in the area affected by the oil spill. However, those operators who do decide to work in the area will be required to undertake testing of their catch before releasing it to market.

"An oil spill seafood sampling area has been developed by DPI&F. The seafood sampling area exceeds the position of the immediate oil spill to take into account the movement of marine species.

"DPI&F is monitoring vessel activity closely through its tracking system, and is in a position to quickly identify any vessels that may decide to operate inside the area.

"No fisheries in the area have been closed as a result of the oil spill.

"Any commercial fishing vessels planning to operate inside the seafood sampling area must contact DPI&F for more information on testing before taking catch.

"A testing regime has been established and will ensure that any seafood taken from within the sampling area does not reach the marketplace until testing occurs and shows there to be no adverse impacts from the oil spill," Mr Groves said.

"Seafood tested will be held in cold or frozen storage as per usual industry arrangements until results of testing are obtained. Queensland Health and DPI&F will communicate the results of tests to fishers as soon as possible."

Mr Groves said all seafood taken outside the sampling area, including inside Moreton Bay and to the north and east of the sampling area, has not been impacted by the spill and does not require testing.

"We are working very closely with the commercial fishing industry to ensure impacts on seafood supply are minimised especially as we come into the busy Easter period."

A second major area of concern to the fishing industry is the hazard to trawlers from the containers lost overboard by the Pacific Adventurer.

"Maritime Safety Queensland will be providing additional information in relation to the location of the containers as it comes to hand," Mr Groves said.

"The Australian Navy Minehunter HMAS Yarra has been tasked with searching for, and locating the containers.

"Any commercial fishing operators who decide to operate in the oil spill area need to be cautious around the location where these shipping containers were lost."

Mr Groves said that recreational fishers had raised concerns about the environmental impact of the oil spill, particularly on fin fish species targeted by anglers, and on pipis and worms used for bait.

"Recreational fishers are advised to exercise common sense and avoid fishing in affected areas," Mr Groves said.

"While the majority of fish will be unaffected, there will be some fish that may have a slightly oily smell caused by a short interaction with the spill.

"If recreational fishers take a catch which smells slightly oily but the fish is otherwise in good health, they should return the fish to the water immediately. This smell usually means the fish needs more time in the water to cleanse itself.

"If fishers take a marine species that appears to have been significantly affected by the spill, for example, the fish is coated in oil or smells heavily of petrol or fuel, the fish should be destroyed and not eaten. The catch should also be immediately reported to DPI&F.

"Details of the catch including the species, location caught and appearance of the catch need to be reported to DPI&F."

the Fish Site Editor