Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Fish ban will damage our international image

The State government has announced that commercial and recreational fishing in the huge Sydney Harbour will be prohibited owing to the dangerously high levels of dioxin found in fish and prawns. There is no indication of how long the ban will be in place and why this life threatening situation had not been detected earlier.

This is a sad set-back for what in recent years had been very positive signs of an improving water quality in the Harbour including the regular presence of whales and the growing numbers of recreational anglers dotted around the shore line. I regularly see families fishing quite successfully off the Finger Wharf and Mrs Macquaries Chair. They will now be instructed to catch and release only and not consume the fish. This will require a carefully targeted message for newly arrived Australians who make up a significant group fishing along the shore. Forcing any fisherman to throw back a legal sized healthy looking fish will be a new challenge for the authorities.

The cancer causing dioxins are leaching into the Harbour from former industrial sites located around Homebush Bay including the former Union Carbide site at Meadowbank near Ryde. Urgent remediation of the western reaches of Sydney Harbour must become a national priority. There is no doubt that news of poisonous fish in our postcard world famous harbour will alarm some tourists and damage our image as an environmentally pristine country. It will make eating fresh fish at Doyles a little bit harder to swallow.

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