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Primary Industries - Fish Farming

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Thursday, 9 September 2021

Tags: Fish Farms, State Budget

Ms O'CONNOR - Minister, there is huge concern in coastal communities around Tasmania about your Government's plans to double the size of the Tasmanian fish farming industry over the next 10 years given that we've just had a damning assessment of the industry by the World Wildlife Fund Australia, which released its findings on 1 September this year, which found that the industry is unsustainable and has caused significant marine environment damage, what reassurance, if any, can you give coastal communities that your Government's fish farm expansion policy won't destroy a beach near them.

Mr BARNETT - Thanks very much for the question. You've certainly made some allegations there I don't accept.

Ms O'CONNOR - No I didn't. Which ones? I didn't allege anything.

Mr BARNETT - I'll continue with my answer because you've mischaracterised the views and policies of the Government.

Of course, as a Government, we have supported the industry in their plans to grow sustainably. The sustainable development of our sustainable salmon industry is based on continuous improvement. It's based on accountability, transparency and support for our local communities, particularly those rural and regional areas where those jobs are so important - thousands of jobs across the state, across the supply chain. It's based on our support for best practice. You've made reference to Government policy and vision -

Ms O'CONNOR - WWF found it's not best practice.

Mr BARNETT - I'm trying to answer the question and the incessant interjections are frustrating. Nevertheless, we will continue.

As a Government, we have a policy position of supporting best-practice farming, which is underpinned by science, based on science and evidence. But we also acknowledge there's more work to do and that's why our sustainable industry growth plan for the salmon industry, since 2017, has provided a transparent framework for responsibly managing this industry to be sustainable and to also meet that market demand for Tasmanian salmon products, which are a key part of the Tasmanian brand - clean and fresh and pure and natural.

It's really important that those qualities are maintained, so we want Tasmanians to have confidence in our sustainable salmon industry. That is the intention and objective of our Government.

Ms O'CONNOR - You have a long way to go, then. Thank you.

Minister, you said a short moment ago that your Government's policy was based on science. Dr Christine Coughanowr, who we were talking about earlier, who used to head up the Derwent Estuary Program, has made some scientific observations of the risk to Storm Bay and the Derwent Estuary should the industry's expansion in Storm Bay proceed. What is your response to concerns about a very high nutrient load in Storm Bay and the Derwent Estuary as a result of your fish farm expansion plans in Storm Bay?

Mr BARNETT - Thanks very much for the question. It is appropriate to advise the committee, at the table is Wes Ford, who is the director of the Environmental Protection Agency, and we have Graeme Woods, the manager of the Marine Farming branch. Thank you very much for both of those people to be here.

With respect to Storm Bay it is progressing sustainably, responsibly and in a -

Ms O'CONNOR - No, it's not.

Mr BARNETT - I'll repeat, with respect to marine farming in Storm Bay, it is progressing responsibly, sustainably and in a staged manner. It aligns with the commitment to a sustainable industry growth plan which has been made available for the public record. Future development moving into oceanic and deeper and high energy waters is part of the plan in terms of Storm Bay, hence the name Storm Bay, rather than estuarine waters.

There's a rigorous statutory process for all three marine farming development plans and their approval processes. I can pass to the director of the EPA and/or Graeme Woods for further comment in that regard.

Mr FORD - Thank you, minister. In relation to the nutrients in Storm Bay, Ms O'Connor, there's currently a comprehensive piece of work being undertaken by CSIRO to develop a biogeochemical model that will allow us to track the fate of the nutrients.

Ms Coughanowr's assertion in terms of changes in the Derwent is predicated on the nutrients coming back up the Derwent. Early indications from the CSIRO modelling is that that is unlikely to occur as part of that process. We have to understand the complex dynamics of the movement in water and the nutrients to determine where their fate is going to be.

Ms O'CONNOR - Thank you, Mr Ford. Given Christine Coughanowr's experience with the Derwent Estuary Program, I hope that her preliminary assessment is not dismissed.

Minister, I want to have a look at the Budget line items around initiatives focused on the health of coastal waters, because we can't find any. All of them seem to be attached to some extractive use of the sea. We've got a recreational fishing strategy, a marine industry support, economic and social value study, oyster industry levy relief, and on it goes. Where is the funding in the Budget for marine health and the health of our coastal waters? Because, to us, it seems to be completely missing.

Mr BARNETT - You have made a reference to a number of the productive industries as well as recreational fishing, for which, as a Government, we are very strong supporters. And, yes, the Budget does include a range of funding initiatives to support recreational fishing, including our 10-year recreational fishing strategy, and that is progressing very well.

Ms O'CONNOR - I'm interest in the funding for marine health.

Mr BARNETT - You have asked the question and I am attempting to answer it, because you have made a range of references in your question to productive industries.

Ms O'CONNOR - To funding in the Budget to productive industries, and no funding towards marine or coastal environmental health.

Mr BARNETT - Yes, so I am sharing an observation in response to your question.

Ms O'CONNOR - I don't need to hear about the extractive industry funding. What I am asking you about is to point to any funding that delivers marine health outcomes.

Mr BARNETT - As I was saying, and attempting to answer the question without being rudely interrupted on two occasions in the last few minutes, the reference in the question to the productive industries is absolutely relevant to me and my department -

Ms O'CONNOR - Not to the question though.

Mr BARNETT - That's the third time in three minutes that I have been rudely interrupted.

Ms O'CONNOR - You're rudely not answering the question.

Mr BARNETT - That's the fourth time. I will finalise my answer and I'm trying to get to the final part of my answer before being rudely interrupted.

With respect to the productive industries, I can assist the member with all of the financial commitments in the Budget -

Ms O'CONNOR - No, no.

Mr BARNETT - I am trying to answer the question and I am about to conclude -

Ms O'CONNOR - You're trying to avoid answering the question.

Mr BARNETT - if I am not rudely interrupted. With respect to the productive industries I can respond. With respect to the Minister for the Environment or the minister for planning, or other ministers, I can't unfortunately respond to the member.

Ms O'CONNOR - That's because there is no new money in the Budget for marine health.

Ms O'CONNOR - Minister, I have three questions. They relate to seals, crop protection permits and 1080 poison use. I am happy for them to go on notice but I need to read them in.

How many seals have been injured, euthanised or relocated by fish farming operations in 2019-20 and 2020-21?

How many crop protection permits have been issued, broken down by target species in 2019-20 and 2020-21?

How much 1080 poison has been used across all tenures in 2019-20 and 2020-21?

Mr BARNETT - Thank you for the three questions which are specific and detailed.

On the first question on the seals, I welcome to the table, Dr Kris Carlyon, who is the section head of Conservation Services, to see if there is an answer that might be provided now or placed on notice.

Mr CARLYON - Could you repeat your question on seals, please.

Ms O'CONNOR - How many Australian fur seals have been injured, euthanised or relocated by fish farming operators or as a result of fish farming in 2019-20 and 2020-21?

Mr CARLYON - With regard to relocation, that practice as a wholesale tool available to industry was banned in 2017, so that no longer occurs. There are special case relocations that are approved on a case by case basis to manage a particular individual. We have approved one relocation in the last financial year of an animal that was providing an unacceptable OH&S risk to farm workers in the south.

With regard to mortality of seals directly attributable to agricultural operations and infrastructure interactions, there were 15 mortalities confirmed.

Ms O'CONNOR - Is that 2019-20 or 2020-21?

Mr CARLYON - Sorry, the figures I have are by calendar year here, so 2020-21.

Ms O'CONNOR - So that is 15 mortalities in the year to date?

Mr CARLYON - To date.

Ms O'CONNOR - Would you mind going back to the last calendar year as well?

Mr CARLYON - Confirming 2021 to date, confirmed 15 directly attributable mortalities industry wide. In 2020, 15 as well.

Ms O'CONNOR - Do you have injury data?

Mr CARLYON - I have not got industry data in front of me. We can perhaps take that on notice.

Ms O'CONNOR - Through you, minister, the question about how many crop protection permits have been issued broken down by target species in 2019-20 and 2020-21.

Mr BAKER - That's quite a detailed table that I'm happy to provide on notice because of the amount of species, Ms O'Connor.

Ms O'CONNOR - Thank you, Mr Baker. Minister, how much 1080 poison has been used across all tenures in 2019-20 and 2020-21.

Mr BARNETT - Thank you for the question. I'll pass to the secretary.

Mr BAKER - I'm advised that during the 2019-20 financial year a total of 1.18 kilograms of 1080 was used for crop protection purposes which is similar to the amount that has been used in the previous five years. As at 5 February 2021 a total of 0.66 kilos of 1080 has been issued and I also note it's significantly less than the 1999-2000 total in which was 15 kilos used.

Ms O'CONNOR - Yes, that was disgusting. Thank you.

Ms O'CONNOR - I want to go back to an answer that was given a short time ago about the seal deaths as a result of fish farming and get some more clarity around the 15 seals that were killed in 2020 and 2021 and whether they died as a result of a departmental authorisation, just some details why those seals died?

Mr BARNETT - Thanks for the question. Just to make it very clear, as a government animal welfare is very important. We take it seriously, as is worker safety, is taken very seriously. I'll just say that as a preliminary measure before I pass back to Kris to see if he can assist the member.

Mr CARLYON - In regard to the 15 attributable mortalities reported this year industry-wide, as far as I understand those were all accidental deaths resulting from interactions with infrastructure. None were attributable to seal deterrent devices.

Ms WILSON - Can we just take that on notice, to confirm that.

Ms O'CONNOR - Just the causes, yes.

Ms WILSON - Yes, it's just as far as he's aware.

Ms O'CONNOR - Okay. That's good. Thanks.

Mr BARNETT - If we could take that on notice just to confirm that advice.