Macquaurie Harbour fish farm

The TCT stated today that the decision by the Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke that the proposed doubling of the area of fish farms in Macquarie Harbour did not significantly impact the endangered Maugean Skate and the Tasmanian World Heritage Area, and therefore did not require assessment, is incorrect and constitutes an abandonment of his responsibilities.

TCT Director Peter McGlone said today that: “In making his decision, the Minister did not know whether the proposed expansion of fish farms would or would not have significant impacts specifically on the Maugean Skate and the values of the WHA.”

“This is the only question which the Minister is required to answer and he was not provided with (and nor did he ask for) the specific information which could have allowed him to answer it.

“The Minister has just fast tracked this expansion and there is no guarantee the conditions he has applied will actually protect the environment values he is supposed to be responsible for”.

“Minister Burke has placed conditions on the fish farm expansion in relation to water quality and fish habitats but the science has not been done, and nor has he required it, to determine what level of pollution would be a significant threat to the WHA and the Maugean Skate and whether these will be exceeded.

“Rather than requiring specific information to determine the pollution levels which are consistent with protection of the WHA and skate – which would have delayed the project being approved – the Minister has fast-tracked the approval and taken a punt that normal fish farm management measures will be sufficient.Also, numerous other potential threats to the Maugean Skate and WHA, acknowledged by the state government, were not addressed by Minister Burke’s conditions e.g. introduced pests and diseases, entanglement, escape of farmed fish, spillage of fuels and hydraulic oils and noise related impacts.

“Of particular concern is the Minister’s failure to insist on additional conditions to protect the Maugean Skate from entanglement in fish farm nets, even though the state government admitted that, even with application of safety measures, some skates would be killed in this way,” Mr McGlone concluded.

Peter McGlone
Director, TCT