GLADSTONE, Australia, Dec. 30 (UPI) -- Fishermen in Australia say a giant dredging operation in a Queensland harbor is responsible for killing fish and other marine life.
Work is under way to dredge 46 million tons of sediment from Gladstone Harbor as part of a $30 billion project to export coal-seam gas to Asia.
A sharp rise in dead fish and crustaceans in Gladstone since dredging work began to allow liquid natural gas carriers to access the harbor has caused widespread anger and protests, The Australian reported Friday.
But the Gladstone Ports Corp., which is conducting the dredging, insists the operation is not responsible for the fish disease and deaths, which it says started before dredging commenced.
A scientific review is due in two weeks, and Queensland Department of Environment and Resource Development director general Jim Reeves said if the dredging were found to be responsible, "we will have to deal with that."
"We may have to adapt or modify the dredging practices," Reeves said. "We are not interested in dredging at all costs."
Gladstone Harbor is within the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage area designated by the United Nations.
Gladstone Ports Corp. Chairman Ian Brusasco has written to members of Parliament asking them to consider redrawing the World Heritage area boundary to exclude the harbor.
Larissa Waters of the Greens Party said the Ports Corp. request was an admission that "their massive dredging program is an environmental disaster that does not belong in a World Heritage area."
"It's the mass dredging that should be stopped, not the World Heritage listing," she said.