You are here

Maugean Skate - Critically Endangered Status

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Thursday, 25 May 2023

Tags: Threatened Species, Macquarie Harbour, Fish Farms


The recent research by IMAS has the ancient Maugean skate on the brink of extinction. Oxygen levels in Macquarie Harbour have crashed and remain terminally low since salmon farming there intensified under your Government. Successive IMAS and EPA reports have documented the absence of oxygen caused by salmon pollution. This one tells us Maugean skate numbers have halved. Experts say we are just one heatwave away from losing this ancient animal forever.

An El Nino is predicted next summer. Will you do anything effective as the minister responsible for preventing this imminent extinction? Will you upgrade the Maugean skate to critically endangered? Will you order the removal of all fish farms before summer? Or will you just keep monitoring it into extinction?



Mr Speaker, I thank the member for her question, which she also asked on adjournment last night. My answer is also on Hansard from last night. I am happy to touch on some key points from it.

First, we are aware of the report that has been released and the reports that preceded it. Our Government has been funding IMAS's work in this area of research since 2014. As Dr Woodruff would also know if she had reviewed the Hansard after she came in here, made her allegations last night then fled the Chamber -

Dr Woodruff - I did not flee the Chamber. You moved on to Dr Broad.

Mr SPEAKER - Order. The Greens have considered it important enough to ask the question again today after raising it on adjournment last night. If it is an important question to them, I now expect since the question has been put that the answer is listened to in silence.

Dr WOODRUFF - Mr Speaker, thank you very much. Can you ask the minister to correct the record? I did not flee the Chamber. He had moved onto Dr Broad's contributions.

Mr SPEAKER - No, member for Franklin, you will sit down. You have asked the question. I will allow the minister to answer it without interjections.

Mr JAENSCH - Thank you, Mr Speaker. As per last night's response also, I put on the record that our Government last updated a listing statement for the Maugean skate late last year. We are in the process of developing a conservation action plan in collaboration with the Australian Government, other relevant stakeholders, scientists, researchers, advisers, right now.

Dr Woodruff - When will that be ready by?

Mr SPEAKER - Dr Woodruff, if you interject again, I will ask you to leave.

Mr JAENSCH - In reference to Dr Woodruff's claims about the Tasmanian Government's policies around salmon farming and increases in biomass, the biomass limits set on Macquarie Harbour have effectively halved since 2017. Most recently, the EPA has issued new limits relating to total permissible dissolved nitrogen outputs for fish farming in the Macquarie Harbour area in response, in part, to IMAS's work on the Maugean skate. This is one of several factors that we understand affect the survival of this species in this harbour. Others include recreational gill netting, commercial fishing, hydro inflows and a range of other matters. We have made changes in all of these areas, as you would have known if you had read the papers and been in touch with people who live, work and recreate around Strahan and Macquarie Harbour. It is part of our conservation action plan for this skate as well.

The other thing important to understand is that there are many factors affecting the survivability of this species and the complexity of the Macquarie Harbour environment as a place for the skate to live. One of the things is that the threatened status of the Maugean skate is predominantly driven by its very limited range - less than 100 square kilometres; just Macquarie Harbour nowadays. That alone is something to warrant its threatened species status. It has previously been recorded in places like Bathurst Harbour but recent environmental DNA surveys of the area indicate that it is no longer. There is no aquaculture in Bathurst Harbour. There are no hydro inflows to deal with. These are challenging environments. We do not understand them fully. We need to do more research. We will continue to fund research with IMAS.

It is wrong for anyone to mispresent these reports and indicate that aquaculture is the sole determinative of the future of this species and to land that at the feet of government policy. I am glad that Dr Woodruff is reading the reports, keeping herself up to date. It is important if she comes in here and seeks to represent scientific reporting that she does so in context, in full. That she does not pick the things that she likes out of it and use it as a political weapon.

Ms O'Connor - Someone in here has to defend the species that are being driven to extinction, and it will not be you.

Mr SPEAKER - Ms O'Connor, order.