Boffins hope to save Ge­orge and mates

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - NEWS -

SCI­EN­TISTS are spend­ing a mil­lion dol­lars to work out why Ge­orge the groper’s mates have been dy­ing.

The friendly gi­ant of Dick­son In­let, Ge­orge has so far sur­vived the mys­te­ri­ous bac­te­rial in­fec­tion which has killed off more than 80 Queens­land groper and still comes to the In­let for his daily feed.

A col­lab­o­ra­tion of Aus­tralia’s best vet­eri­nar­i­ans, sci­en­tists and aqua cul­tur­ists have be­gun a $930,000, three year project to in­ves­ti­gate the mys­te­ri­ous bac­te­rial in­fec­tion which killed more than 40 grop­ers be­tween Port Dou­glas and Bowen in 2009.

In 2008 two grop­ers were washed up on Low Isles, eight in the In­let and one on Four Mile beach, all in­fected by the bac­te­ria.

The new project will in­ves­ti­gate whether the grop­ers be­come in­fected by eat­ing con­tam­i­nated food, by fish to fish con­tact or by in­fected wa­ters.

Biose­cu­rity Queens­land vet­eri­nary of­fi­cer Dr Rachel Bowa­ter is lead­ing the project.

Dr Bowa­ter said that the devel­op­ment of di­ag­nos­tic tests that de­tect the dis­ease in fish will also as­sist with di­ag­no­sis in wild fish kills and aqua­cul­ture in­dus­tries.

“This re­search will ben­e­fit the Queens­land aqua­cul­ture in­dus­tries by de­ter­min­ing the im­pacts this wild fish bac­terium may have on farmed reef fish such as Queens­land groper, other reef fish and bar­ra­mundi,” she said.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tion is still in early plan­ning stages, how­ever a num­ber of in­fected and healthy fish have been sam­pled for the bac­te­ria.

“Port Dou­glas is def­i­nitely one of the main ge­o­graph­i­cal ar­eas where a lot of the grop­ers are dy­ing so there are a lot of unan­swered ques­tions, “Dr Bowa­ter said.

On the In­let res­tau­rant at Port Dou­glas has been feed­ing the friendly giants ev­ery af­ter­noon for years.

Staff mem­ber and groper wran­gler Dylan Rice said lo­cal icon Ge­orge still vis­its the res­tau­rant for a feed, but other fish also show up.

Gulp: Port’s grop­ers ap­pear to have been spared by the mys­tery bac­te­rial ill­ness which claimed 40

fish over the past two years

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