There will be quite a few people relieved at this week’s official health warning about PFAS contaminated fish.
While the Katherine River downstream of the town has basically been ruled out for anything but catch and release fishing, the Daly River was not included.
The amount of fish you can safely eat from the Katherine River is severely limited, and for small children, parents would have to think twice.
The Daly, along with the Roper, is one of the NT’s premier inland barramundi streams.
Thousands of anglers, from around Australia, and locally, are drawn to these supposed pristine waters each year to catch a big one.
It is on the bucket list of many, and has been for generations.
Many industries, tourism chief among them, would be badly damaged by fish contamination warnings.
It matters little that visitors can still safely eat a locally caught barra because they are occasional eaters.
The whiff of a contamination issue in NT’s inland waterways has had all sorts of people worried.
An early study by the NT Government late last year on 12 fish in the Daly revealed everyone’s worst fears.
Not only does the poisonous plume from the Tindal RAAF Base extend directly under a major population centre – it empties into the Katherine River.
The Katherine River joins with the Flora River 60km downstream of the town as tributaries of the Daly.
The Daly snakes its way for another 354km before spilling into the Timor Sea.
Katherine is leaking so much PFAS it has been found 60km downstream.
A second study, released in June, with more than 100 samples from the Daly, also found contamination – although at much lower levels, obviously below the warning standard.
Fish species are contaminated to different degrees as well.
Barramundi and Sleepy Cod are carnivores eating bugs and other fish, Sooty Grunters are omnivores with similar PFAS “data ranges”
The PFAS levels found in Mullet and Blue Catfish was much greater.
Mullet feed on detritus and algae found on the river beds and catfish are predators that eat other fish, frogs and invertebrates.
Bottom-feeding Mullet are off the menu for kids especially in the Katherine River.
Katherine has been leaking PFAS for decades, it is still doing so today and will continue to for years to come.
Sadly, Katherine has become the NT’s poisoned chalice.
Fish are only the first food to fear, eggs, meat, fruit and vegies are still to come.