Groups like the Gippsland Environment Group and environmentalists like Ross Scott and health professionals like Dr. Jo McCubbin have been raising concerns about the mercury levels in fish in the Gippsland Lakes for many years.
It has been announced that a “study to assess mercury levels in fish of the Gippsland Lakes will commence today followed by a broader environmental study into the accumulation of mercury and other heavy metals in the sediment of the Lakes. The first study, which will commence today will involve the catching of 100 black bream and 100 dusky flathead across 10 sites.”
The release added that the ”study of mercury levels in the fish will be conducted in line with research conducted in 1980, 1998 and 2004, each of which found that mercury levels were well within food safety guidelines and safe to eat.” Whilst this may be so McCubbin and Scott have been pointing out that mercury accumulates in the body and even very small doses may be harmful to pregnant women and small children.
The mercury in the Lakes comes from a number of sources including gold recovery operations of the nineteenth century and from the Australian Paper’s Maryvale paper mill. But the major source is probably from the continued combustion of brown coal in the Latrobe Valley.
The media release concluded: “The Gippsland community, including professional fishers, has been consulted about the research, and the fishermen will participate by catching the fish for the study. Professional fishers also participate in the annual algae monitoring in the Lakes. These studies are joint initiatives of the Department of Health & Human Services, the Environment Protection Authority, Department of Environment, Land, Water & Planning, Fisheries Victoria, the Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport & Resources and Primesafe.”
The State government is to be congratulated on this initiative.