Dr Scott McCauley encountered the dead dolphin.
Dr Scott McCauley encountered the dead dolphin. Submitted

Scientist panel welcomed

STAKEHOLDERS have welcomed an announcement by State Environment Minister Kate Jones that she is forming a scientific panel to investigate the cause of marine animal deaths in Gladstone Harbour.

The announcement follows a spate of turtles, dolphins and dugong deaths in recent months.

World Wildlife Fund Queensland manager Nick Heath applauded the decision.

“We welcome the inclusion of independent scientists and we will be watching to make sure they are allowed an opportunity to be independent,” he said.

“We need the sun to shine in. Yes, we've had some terrible incidents recently, but it is a long standing problem, not just in Gladstone.

“We look forward to providing a submission.”

Mr Heath said “constant community vigilance” was necessary to ensure investigations such as this were done in an independent way.

Queensland Seafood Industry Association president Michael Gardner said a scientific panel would be useful, although he had not heard the details of the initiative.

“We would certainly support further scientific investigation into these events in the harbour,” Mr Gardner said.

“As an industry representative body, we're very keen to try to establish a code of practice among the fishers in the harbour.”

He said QSIA was in discussions with the Department of Environment and Resource Management and Queensland Fisheries to come up with a sustainable plan for net fishing in the mouth of the Boyne River after the current 60-day ban ends in two weeks.

Mr Gardner said QSIA was discussing measures such as addressing net attendance and having observers on boats to verify professional fishermen were adhering to regulations.

Boyne Island resident Jodi Jones, who has been working on a petition to have net fishing permanently banned in the mouth of the Boyne River, said a scientific panel would be beneficial.

“I think they really need to examine what is going on in Gladstone Harbour,” she said.

Ms Jones said she was concerned about the number of marine animals turning up with “floating syndrome”.

“Hopefully they can put in place good measures that will protect (marine animals) better.”