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Liberals’ Salmon Antibiotics Failure

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Monday, 27 February 2023

Tags: Fish Farms, Marine Environment, Tassal, Huon Aquaculture, Environment

Rosalie Woodruff MP | Greens Environment spokesperson

The Government-directed EPA are failing in their duty to enforce effective monitoring and reporting of antibiotic use and spread throughout the food chain. Tasmanian fishers are unknowingly catching fish, like flathead, with high antibiotic levels right now.

The underpinning scandal, however, is the cosy relationship between the Liberals and Labor and big salmon. The salmon corporates want to ensure environmental regulations are ineffectual enough to continue their dictated business as usual.

RTI information reports, however, that flathead caught two kilometres from Tassal’s salmon lease off Coningham Beach had antibiotics higher than the allowed limit. The EPA sat on that and other antibiotic use information for over two years before going public.

This will rightly shock thousands of Tasmanian recreational fishers. The EPA’s responsibility should be protecting our waterways, not the super profits of big salmon.

Despite recent moves to make them notionally independent of government influence, the EPA continues to operate under ministerial directions through a Statement of Expectations. That means they are still bound to Environment Minister, Roger Jaensch.

We know the Liberal Party hosted a secret fundraising dinner with the Premier last year, attended by global salmon corporate heads who demanded the industry be protected by government. It’s no surprise the EPA can’t put community and environmental interests ahead of its dictated requirement to facilitate “economic development”.

Big salmon is poisoning our waterways, and the Liberals can’t just ignore it.

The Minister for Primary Industries, Jo Palmer, should ensure antibiotic use only occurs when there are no other options. In Norway, the world’s largest producer of farmed salmon, the majority of farmed salmon are never treated with antibiotics - with only 43 prescriptions issued in 2021.

Enforcing alternative measures, including a robust vaccination regime, should all but eliminate the need for antibiotic use. It’s only penny pinching by global corporates - and a weak and captured government - that stops this from happening in Tasmania.

Unless the Rockliff Government amends its legislation to remove the power of ministers to influence EPA decisions, the cosy deal driving unchecked salmon industry expansion will continue – despite the extreme harm to waterways and marine life.