Expert vet: ‘Clean the river and get cheaper, better prawns’
Northern Rivers residents should be able to enjoy fresh, delicious and cheaper prawns, other crustaceans and seafood if we improve the health of the Richmond River, a local vet said.
Matt Landos, an associate researcher at Sydney University and adjunct senior lecturer at Charles Sturt University, said having a healthier river requires a joint approach between seafood industries, farmers, government and the community.
“We should have cheaper, delicious prawns available all year long here,” he said.
“We should have the biggest prawn nursery in NSW, because we have thousands of square kilometres of flood-plain which is where the prawns want to go, they want to go to the saltmarsh, because it makes their food, and then they go back out at sea.”
The aquatic vet and Ballina resident said the Richmond River used to be a bountiful source of seafood.
“We used to have a significantly larger amount of prawns trawl fleet and pocket netters in the river. Our diminished fleet reflects our much diminished prawn population,” he said.
The expert said waste water carrying microplastics, pharmaceuticals (not removed by treatment plants) are then diluted in water that was never go into the river.
“With pesticides, we look at the chemistry of that particular pesticide and how it affects the prawn, the dog, the human separately, and how much is too much, but we don’t consider that this substance will be in the water at the same time as all these other substances.
“The regulatory system is flawed in its design, as it’s insufficiently protective of what is actually happening in the real world.”
Mr Landos said Ballina still has an opportunity to have a healthier river producing large amounts of seafood.
“Every wetland that we drain and fill in Ballina is a piece of habitat for that our fishery that no longer functions,” he said.
“It may not be a sensible place to be building on, with climate change impacts advancing upon us.
“We want the most resilient, the healthiest animals in the environment to fish and consume, and to do that, we must have the least polluted animals in the environment.
“We need to deal with the few sources of pollution in the catchment, that requires a substantial collaborative solution between farmers and the community.”
The vet said diseases affecting crustaceans are in part affecting wildlife because of the stress they are under due to the pollution in our rivers.
“Diseases don’t tend to happen by chance,” he said.
“Some of those reasons relate to the stress loading in the wild prawns.
“When someone is sick, we only think of the host and the pathogen, but the environment is also an actor on this.
“The stresses that we put into the environment manifest as an actor.”
“That message about environmental health and its role in disease expression it’s a message that needs to be out and the volume turned right up, because it is sitting behind many diseases in animals and it’s sitting behind much of the decline of aquatic productivity we continue to witness in the Richmond.”