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Rockliff Hiding Macquarie Harbour Salmon Numbers

18 Jan 2017

Rosalie Woodruff MP | Greens' Environment spokesperson

The Environment Protection Authority has lowered the maximum concentration of farmed fish in Macquarie Harbour down to 14,000 tonnes per hectare, reduced by one third of what Minister Rockliff approved this time last year.

It's believed the salmon industry has been farming fish at a much lower concentration than 14,000 tonnes per hectare for more than a year, and have never reached the maximum cap limit.  Despite this, the stocking density has clearly been far higher than the marine environment in Macquarie Harbour can withstand.

Minister Rockliff needs to reveal the actual fish concentration in Macquarie Harbour over the past two years, instead of hiding these data under a veil of “commercial in confidence”.  Without this information, the community can’t be confident the EPA's salmon cap reduction will be enough to improve the zero oxygen being recorded below 20 metres in the harbour.

In an ABC radio interview last December, the Director of the EPA Wes Ford confirmed that “. . . in parts of the Harbour there have been impacts on the benthic habitat to the point where there is very little life”.

The EPA decision reveals the damage that a secretive and unscientific Marine Farming Planning Review process is having on our sensitive marine waterways.  The government’s mismanagement has been a catastrophe for life in Macquarie Harbour, which the EPA concedes is under chronic stress.

A secretive meeting of DPIPWE's Marine Farming Planning Review Panel to decide about the proposed expansion of Tassal into Okehampton Bay was held behind closed doors yesterday.  

Marine Farming Planning Review Panel decisions are strongly influenced by industry, and ultimately rest with the Minister.  The same Minister who approved unsustainable fish numbers in Macquarie Harbour is making the final decision about a salmon company’s expansion onto the East Coast.

Unless the Minister moves the approval of licences and expansion of leases outside his Department, he is doomed to repeat history, like the Macquarie Harbour disaster.  This would be bad news for regional jobs, and terrible news for fragile marine waters.