Peter O Sullivan, chief executive officer at Gladstone Ports Corporation.
Peter O Sullivan, chief executive officer at Gladstone Ports Corporation. Julia Bartrim

Fishermen lodge class action over toxic dredge spill

A CLASS action is being brought against Gladstone Ports Corporation on behalf of commercial fishermen for losses they say resulted from large-scale contamination from toxic dredge spill in 2011-12.

The fishermen are claiming losses of more than $100million following the Western Basin Dredging and Disposal Project in Gladstone Harbour.

The dredging began in 2011 to prepare for the three Curtis Island LNG projects.

As part of the port expansion, 46 million cubic metres of capital dredge sediment was disposed into a bunded reclamation area.

The bund was designed to hold the sediment and prevent it from escaping into the surrounding waters as it was considered likely to contain various contaminants that could cause serious harm to marine and aquatic life.

The proceedings will allege that the bund had significant defects and did not successfully contain the dredge spoil.

As such it's claimed that toxic dredge leached out of the bund and into the surrounding waters.

It's also alleged that toxic dredge spoil had a catastrophic effect on marine life resulting in less fish and seafood and a reduced quality in seafood causing significant commercial loss to the claimants.

The class action is being funded by Litigation Capital Management.

CEO Patrick Moloney said the fishermen had suffered losses in excess of $100million as a result of large-scale contamination and the class action presented a chance for them to be compensated for the losses.

It's the fourth time a similar class action has been brought against GPC. None of the previous actions have been successful.

The most recent was in May last year when 200 people in the seafood and tourism industry were signed.

At the time, GPC chief executive Peter O'Sullivan (left) said any attempt at a class action would be a waste of time, a misuse of the court's time, resources and people's money.

In 2012 GPC offered compensation to commercial fishermen impacted by a three-week closure of the port.

It also established a $1.5million fund for the development and rehabilitation of the local seafood industry.

Mr O'Sullivan said the fund was "fair and reasonable" and paid three times the amount of the largest commercial catches for a two-year period in each of the four impact zones.

Gladstone Ports Corporation was not able to provide a comment by deadline last night.