Much has been written and said about Tasmania's burgeoning salmon industry which is so nurtured by our government, and rightly so. However, whilst we would all like the industry to succeed, it must do so sustainably and the views of so many others who rely on our waters for their existence cannot, and should not, be ignored.
There is no question that seals are a serious potential problem for fish farms. There is also no question that relocating or killing seals is a bad response. To a Tasmanian seal, whether it is a New Zealand fur seal or an Australian fur seal, farmed salmon is like a cross between a Big Mac and heroin, (although salmon may be a healthier food choice than a Big Mac).
Salmon farming production has increased by around 171% over the past decade in Tasmania and salmon companies have stated that they want to double production by 2030. Whilst the industry provides much-needed regional jobs, anecdotal and scientific reports suggest that impacts are increasing, monitoring is inadequate and the expansion of the industry needs to slow down and be done in a more strategically planned and transparent way.
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.
A recent amendment to the Marine Farming Planning Act 1995 puts more direct power in the hands of the minister. This change makes it even more obvious that the government believes Tasmanians should have no meaningful role in the planning process that governs Tasmania’s aquaculture industry.
The Marine Farming Planning Review Panel recently handed down its decision on Tassal's Soldiers Point marine farming expansion proposal and, for the first time since this planning body came into existence, a marine farming development proposal has actually been turned down. This somewhat surprising outcome is certainly a win for the conservation movement and the local community, but does it indicate a new approach to planning for the aquaculture industry here in Tasmania?
A proposal by salmon farmer Tassal to increase the size of its Soldiers Point farm in the D'Entrecasteaux Channel renews concerns about the environmental impacts of fish farming, loss of access to publicly owned waterways and the planning process that regulates the Tasmanian aquaculture industry. A recent hearing of the Marine Farming Planning Review Panel highlighted these concerns.