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Courtney Dodges Question on Mass Salmon Escape and Seal Deaths

22 May 2018

Rosalie Woodruff MP | Greens’ Environment spokesperson

The Minister for Primary Industries, Sarah Courtney, dodged questions in Parliament on reports of mass salmon escapes and seal deaths resulting from last week's climate-induced extreme weather events across Storm Bay.

Ms Courtney did not deny 600,000 salmon had escaped from broken nets, with reports suggesting some nets had ‘holes the size of trucks’ in them. In addition to the large number of escapees, similar reports allege some escaped salmon were infected with pilchard orthomyxovirus (POMV), posing a biosecurity threat.

The Minister also refused to answer whether reports have been made to her Department about alleged seal or shark deaths, resulting from the failure of fish farm pens during the storm.

Ms Courtney's slithering under questioning suggests either a salmon company has failed to report serious operational breaches to government, or a she, as Minister, has no idea about what’s going on in her portfolio.

On top of reports of mass fish escapes, seal deaths and biosecurity risks, there was a large amount of plastic marine pollution generated by fish farm operations during the storm. The extreme weather events that recently battered Storm Bay and the D'Entrecasteaux Channel region will occur more often with the increasingly volatile climate system.

The Liberals should halt the planned expansion of fish farming into Storm Bay, as these recent events demonstrate inadequate scientific assessment has been conducted of baseline marine environment and climate conditions. 

Future salmon farming developments around Tasmania should only occur when private companies can assure the community their activities will not threaten existing wildlife, communities and industries.