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Temporary Closure Of Prawning Operations In Sydney Harbour

Ken A

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The State Government has temporarily suspended prawning operations in Sydney Harbour after tests revealed elevated dioxin levels in Harbour prawns.

The closure, which affects commercial and recreational prawn fishers only, is effective as of 1 am this morning and will remain in force until further test results are available.

The temporary closure was put in place as a precautionary measure. Elevated dioxin levels can pose a potential health risk over the long-term and have been linked to serious health issues such as cancer.

This closure applies to Sydney Harbour prawn operators only.

Fin-fishing in Sydney Harbour (outside already existing restrictions) is not affected, as there is no evidence of elevated dioxin levels in fin-fish at this stage.

The NSW Food Authority will work with the NSW Department of Primary Industries and NSW Department of Environment and Conservation to conduct further tests as a matter of urgency.

The testing will provide a more comprehensive picture of current dioxin levels.

A range of fin-fish species will also be included in the emergency sampling as an added precaution.

The NSW Food Authority will then advise the Government of any further actions that need to be taken once the results are available.

The Government hopes to have the results before Christmas to provide certainty to fishers in the Sydney Harbour.

The closure was based on advice of the NSW Food Authority, which consulted with the NSW Department of Primary Industries, the NSW Department of Environment and Conservation and NSW Health.

There are 20 commercial fishers who harvest prawns from Sydney Harbour. The Sydney Harbour prawn fishery is quite small, with only 5.5 tonnes of prawns harvested in 2004/2005, or less than 1% of the traditional supply to local seafood markets.

Sydney Harbour prawns are generally supplied to particular markets and this temporary closure is not expected to impact the broader availability of locally grown prawns from NSW.

Further information about the closure and dioxins can be obtained by calling the NSW Food Authority on 1300 552 406, or visiting the NSW Food Authority’s web site.

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