January 12, 2009 11:00pm
CHEMICAL contamination from farm runoff has been blamed after millions of fish larvae in the Noosa River were found to have grown two heads.
The disfigured larvae are thought to have been affected by one of two popular farm chemicals, either the insecticide endosulphan or the fungicide carbendazim.
Former NSW fisheries scientist and aquaculture veterinarian Matt Landos yesterday called on the Federal Government to ban the chemicals and urgently find replacements.
Dr Landos said about 90 per cent of larvae spawned at the Sunland Fish Hatchery from bass taken from the river were deformed and all died within 48 hours.
“It certainly looks like the fish have been exposed to something in the river,” Dr Landos said.
“I wouldn’t like to be having kids and living next to a place that uses these chemicals and I wouldn’t like to be drinking tank water where they are in use.”
Hatchery owner Gwen Gilson blames chemicals used by macadamia farmers near her Boreen Point business for the deformities.
“Some embryos split into two heads, some had two equal heads and a small tail and some had one big long head and a small tail coming out of the head,” she said.
Farmers nearby declined to comment.
Dr Landos said the chemicals were potentially human carcinogens and could have entered the river through any number of sources such as spraying or run-off even though there was no evidence of improper use.
Carbendazim had a history of causing embryonic defects and had been banned in the US, while endosulphan was banned in New Zealand.
“These chemicals mess up cell development,” he said. “There’s no other plausible explanation for what’s going on.”
Biosecurity Queensland chief Ron Glanville said an investigation into the claims started two years ago.
No evidence of chemicals used on an adjoining property were found in water, fish, fish eggs, chooks and horse samples.
“These things are notoriously hard to track down,” he said.
Dr Landos and Dr Glanville said there was no danger for people either swimming or eating fish from the Noosa River because if chemicals were in the water, levels would likely be exceedingly low.
The Federal Environment Department has been asked to investigate.
At least they didn’t blame this one on global warming!