Dioxin levels down in some rec species as harbour survey gets underway

20 Dec 2007

Please note - This news release has now been archived and may contain outdated information.

New test results mean food consumption guidelines have been relaxed for two fish species popular with anglers in Sydney Harbour.

After 1200 tests Dusky flathead and Fan-belly Leatherjackets from the eastern Harbour were found to have dioxin levels as low as, or lower than, other species previously tested.

The news comes as a Greater Sydney Region Recreational Fishing Survey gets underway with anglers and spear fishers in Sydney Harbour to be asked about their fishing habits and catches.

The survey is part of a plan to gather vital information that will be used to manage the sector and improve recreational fishing. It comes at the same time as test results reveal good news for at least two popular recreational species in the Harbour.

Recent tests revealed Dusky flathead dioxin levels averaged 2 picograms per gram and Fanbelly Leatherjackets averaged 1 picogram per gram in the eastern Harbour - both well below the 6 picogram level recommended by the NSW Food Authority Expert Panel.

This means that the dietary advice from the Food Authority for these 2 species now changes from just one, 150 gram serve per month, to 12 servings for flathead and 24 servings for Fanbelly Leatherjacket.

This is great news for anglers east of the Bridge - but all other restrictions remain in place.

Fishers who are unsure of what type of fish they are catching, or want to consume species that have not been tested, should continue follow the current dietary advice of 150 grams per month for fish from east of the Harbour Bridge only.

It is important to remind all fishers that the recommendation of the Expert Panel still stands and that fish from west of the Bridge should not be consumed.

Sydney Harbour was closed to commercial fishing and restrictions were placed on recreational fishing after high levels of dioxin were found in bream and prawns (the main commercial catches) following testing in late 2005.

Commercial fishing bans remain in place

Unfortunately, there are no changes to the dioxin levels of species such as bream and prawns and there is unlikely to be any change for some time.

Commercial fishers received a $5 million buyout package from the Iemma Government in early 2006.

This dioxin is the legacy of more than 100 years of industrial abuse of our Harbour, especially the upper reaches around Homebush Bay (which has been closed to anglers for more than a decade).

Sydney Harbour is a popular recreational fishing area, with anglers taking part in a new survey.

They’ll be asked things like how long they spend on the water, where they fish, how often they fish, what type of fish they target and what they catch.

The Sydney Harbour component is one part of a $2.2 million, 2 year Great Sydney Region survey, which will involve around 20,000 fishing parties or up to 60,000 individuals.

In addition to the Sydney Harbour component the project is divided into three main parts; a Hawkesbury River estuarine survey, a Port Hacking estuarine survey and a survey of coastal marine fishing at 10 sites between Newcastle and Wollongong.

All of the information collected will assist NSW DPI in the continued sustainable management of these important recreational fisheries both now and in the future.

The project has been jointly funded by the Iemma Government and the Saltwater Recreational Fishing Trust.

This is another great example of fishing fees working directly to improve recreational fishing.

Note: A full breakdown of the latest dietary advice for all species can be obtained by phoning the NSW Food Authority’s contact centre on 1300 552 406 or accessing the Food Authority’s website at www.foodauthority.nsw.gov.au

Media contact: (02) 8289 3949 or 0438 247 571