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Adjournment - Tassal Scientific Permit Application

5 September 2019
Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Madam Deputy Speaker, I raise a matter of serious animal welfare concern which has come to our attention.

The DPIPWE website's wildlife management page has opened an application for socalled scientific permit, that is available for public comment until 18 September. The applicant is Tassal. It is requesting so-called research into the effect of water stream deterrent on human-seal interactions for the protected long-nosed Australian fur seal.

This raises so many issues. Principle among them is that there is total silence about everything to do with animal welfare, seals and fish farms in Tasmania. There was a report last year by the ABC's Henry Swarts, who did an amazing overview through Right to Information. He identified that since 2013, 8700 bean bag bullets were shot at seals in Tasmania. Since 2016 there were 39 000 rounds of underwater explosives used. These are phenomenal numbers. Seals have been attacked by various methods, including shooting. Large numbers of seals were shot and dumped in a grave down in the south. There have been numerous attacks on seals. There has never been openness and transparency about the animal welfare methods used by the fish farm companies in their operations.

We are looking at profit over animal welfare. The seals have been shot at. They have had explosives thrown at them. They have been relocated in their tens of thousands from southern Tasmania up to the north, an incredibly cruel process. It has not only caused the animals to be dislocated and dumped in a far-flung part of the waters of the state, but it has caused huge disruptions to native fish populations and the fishing industries in the northwest of the state.

Tassal now has another proposal to undertake yet a new technique for harassing and managing seals that are around workers. We have no truck with companies keeping workers safe, but we are outraged on behalf of all Tasmanians who care about protecting native animals that this is all done in secrecy.

After the ABC expose on what is happening to Tasmanian fur seals, on behalf of the Greens I sought briefings on this with the minister. Ms O'Connor, in her capacity as member responsible for animal welfare, has sought briefings on animal welfare issues. We have been denied information. I asked questions in budget Estimates and was not given answers by the minister, despite him saying that he would do so. I was not given updated information for this year.

At every turn the Government is trying to hide the reality of the harm that is being done to seals by fish farm companies in Tasmania. The DPIPWE claims on its website that there is a seal management framework that regulates the use of seal deterrent activities is garbage. How would we know? How would we know what is happening to seals in Tasmania in the name of profit for fish farm companies?

I suggest that the Government, prior to this so-called scientific research being undertaken, makes totally transparent to the Tasmanian people what is happening to seals and how management, or mismanagement, is occurring. It is clear there is a need for companies to explore another method of controlling seals. We want to know answers to questions. What is happening to the seals? How many of them are being harmed? How many of them are being relocated? How many of them are being killed? What is happening to all the plastics that are being shot at them and dropping to the bottom of the water around the fish pens? Hundreds of questions. Just open the doors. Tassal should open their doors. If they want to try yet another suspect animal welfare-concerning issue then they should open their books and come clean with what they are doing with seals. They, along with the other companies - it is not just Tassal, Huon Aquaculture is in the same situation - have problems with the way they are managing seals.

The Government must make information available to the public and to people putting a submission in before 18 September.