Fears economy could plummet with contaminated fish

CONCERN: Katherine Camping and Fishing owner Matt Bannister took over the fishing shop just five months ago.
CONCERN: Katherine Camping and Fishing owner Matt Bannister took over the fishing shop just five months ago.

Katherine fishing store owners are concerned contamination of fish could wreck the local economy.

Last night the Defence Department said fish found below the Stuart Highway bridge have been found with high levels of PFAS.

Residents have been warned to avoid eating the fish as a precaution.

Amateur Fishing Association of the NT president and Rod and Rifle owner Warren de With said he was “definitely” worried about his business.

“It was a real shock yesterday to find the PFAS levels were so high in the Katherine River. We need to get more information,” Mr de With said.

“But I am not just worried abut my own business, I am worried about the whole Territory economy. Fishing is a major driver of our economy.

“I understand some of the fish tested were 17 times the recommended daily dose, that is really concerning.

“There needs to be more work done and we need that urgently,” he said.

Mr de With said his main concern is that little is known about the extent of the contamination.

“We need to know how big of an area we are dealing with, these fish move out of the contaminated area in Katherine during the Wet Season to avoid predators,” Mr de With said.

“They move downstream towards the Daly River and that is a major concern.”

Mr de With said the Daly River was the NT’s premier fishing spot.

He said only small fish had been tested so far and thinks testing on larger fish will yield higher PFAS results.

There is every chance this is going to affect people coming here to fish, and even coming to town altogether.

Matt Bannister

“The sampling that was done was on juvenile fish, seeing such elevated levels in juvenile fish is really scary,” Mr de With said.

“Imagine what kind of levels will be in fish that are 70-80 cm. They will have been in the water longer and have more time to be exposed, they also would be consuming other smaller fish with high levels of PFAS.”

Mr de With said the government needs to provide more detailed information about the extent of the contamination as a matter of urgency.

“Black bream need individual sampling done, during the dry season they are more popular than barra.

“We need more than the three or four lines of information they gave us last night,” Mr de With said.

“It causes more anxiety to people because they start to make their own assumptions when there is little information.”

Katherine Camping and Fishing owner Matt Bannister took over the fishing shop just five months ago.

“It is all a bit nerve wracking,” Mr Bannister said.

“It is scaring a lot of people and I suppose because we don’t really know what is going on.

“There is every chance this is going to affect people coming here to fish, and even coming to town altogether,” he said.

“Last night they were saying do not eat the fish at all then today defence is saying it is just a precaution. We need clearer information.

“The final report is going to come out in April, well that is when all of the tourists start to come and it is going to be all over the news.”