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Tandem Freefall: Parachute Fails For Macquarie Harbour and Fish Farm Industry

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Thursday, 1 December 2016

Tags: Fish Farms, Marine Environment, Huon Aquaculture, Macquarie Harbour, Environment Protection Authority

Rosalie Woodruff MP | Greens' Environment spokesperson

A public spat between two CEOs of Tasmania’s largest regional industry employer on ABC radio this morning told us everything about the disastrous state of our salmon farming industry and the marine environment that sustains it.

There is no oxygen for biological activity in large parts of Macquarie Harbour, and no inflows of water to move the piles of waste from fish pens. Junk science from the Primary Industry Minister’s department has been used to promote fish farm expansions at any cost.

Frances Bender, CEO of Huon Aquaculture, said the ecosystem of Macquarie Harbour is at collapse, and she pointed the finger of responsibility at successive Liberal and Labor government mismanagement.  She said the reputation of Tasmania’s salmon industry has been “trashed”, and she fears for the jobs in Strahan if massive fish deaths occur.

The survival of this industry, employer of over 5000 Tasmanians, is now threatened by the loss of biological activity in the waterways where the salmon grow, and national consumer backlash at a damaged brand.

People don’t want to buy and eat farmed fish that have helped cause the death of iconic waterways and threatened species.

The Greens congratulate Ms Bender for writing to the Federal Government asking for a review of the State's management of the industry.

In the cynical world of government regulation that is supposed to protect the environment, “adaptive management” has only meant the fish cap goes up, not down.

Ms Bender is now pulling the plug on the cosy government and salmon industry regulatory relationship that has existed so far. She can see what conservationists, marine scientists and communities having been warning for over a decade.

Intensive salmon farming is ruining life in our waterways and the existence of the industry along with it. Healthy marine ecosystems are the only way to keep long-term jobs in the fish farming industry for regional areas like Strahan.

The EPA’s 8% reduction in the Harbour’s biomass cap will be woefully inadequate to save the marine life in the Harbour.  According to Ms Bender, in September there was 11,000 tonnes of farmed salmon, and the Harbour was already in trouble. How can an increase to 14,000 tonnes over summer be enough to save the basin?

Minister Rockliff has to act immediately and put the health of the marine environment at the top of his priority list.  It's time he listened to conservationists and independent scientists who are not paid by the salmon industry.