You are here

Salmon Farming - Threat to Maugean Skate in Macquarie Harbour

Vica Bayley MP

Vica Bayley MP  -  Thursday, 7 September 2023

Tags: Fish Farms, Macquarie Harbour, Threatened Species


It is National Threatened Species Day and, in a sorry gong for Tasmania, it is the anniversary of the last known thylacine.

Your Government's poor track record on threatened species protection has been writ large recently: eight endangered wedge-tailed eagles killed by a wind farm, IMAS reporting a 47 per cent decline in the maugean skate population, and Forestry Tas still logging swift parrot habitat. Despite the science and desperate need to reduce threats and protect habitat, your Government continues to ignore impacts on our most vulnerable species.

Yesterday, on the maugean skate, federal minister Tanya Plibersek said:

We urge the salmon industry and the Tasmanian Government to take the action needed to clean up Macquarie Harbour so the maugean skate can survive.

Salmon farming is the biggest threat to the skate. When the environmental licences permitting salmon farming in Macquarie Harbour expire on 30 November, will you give the EPA the political space it needs to make the necessary decision to not renew licences - an action the skate needs for survival?



Mr Speaker, I thank the member for his question. Today is National Threatened Species Day. It is an important day when we can shine a light on the work being done to ensure the protection and recovery of our unique threatened species and to raise awareness about them across our community.

As a government and a society we need to work continuously to find ways to grow our economy and provide for the needs and wellbeing of our people, while protecting our native and threatened species, and the natural environments on which they and we all depend. This is a complex challenge. For the Greens it is very simple: you just shut down industries and abandon the field. We work with industries, government, scientists and researchers, and communities in areas where our economy intersects with the natural environment to find a way to meet the needs of all species, including humans, skate and parrots, and to get it right. It is a complex, ongoing challenge and we are up for it.

At a meeting with federal Environment minister Tanya Plibersek in June, our Government and I as minister reiterated our support for immediate practical actions while long-term actions are being developed to ensure the survival of the maugean skate. Around the table with us we had the salmon industry, the west coast community, and Tasmanian and Australian scientists who have been working on the skate for decades. We are committed to developing a range of actions and a conservation action plan by the end of this year. But, we are not waiting for all that work to be done to take action. Early pieces of work have emerged from those discussions and that research, including a captive breeding program and mechanisms to improve dissolved oxygen levels in the harbour.

Today, we welcomed minister Tanya Plibersek's announcement of funding to support a captive breeding program for the maugean skate in Tasmania. Our department has been working with IMAS for many years on developing the science behind a program that can be based in Tasmania. We urged the federal government - and we will work with them - to ensure that this work is undertaken by Tasmanian scientists, in Tasmania, where we can collectively work with the industry to ensure we protect that species and provide an insurance population that can add to the wild population in the harbour.

I also congratulate the salmon industry in Tasmania for proactively putting on the table its money, its resources, and its research dollars as well, to work with the science, to work with governments at all levels, and with the community, to ensure they are playing their part in ensuring the future of the maugean skate, with a $750 000 commitment that will also leverage research resources.

Our Government has been working for many years - since 2014 - with IMAS on the maugean skate. Late last year, the independent EPA modified its cap on nitrogen inputs to the harbour, as one of a range of actions being taken to improve conditions in the harbour for the maugean skate. There have been modifications made to recreational gill netting in the harbour, to also reduce risk of accidental bycatch of the maugean skate.

This is a complex natural system. We need to be working together with all stakeholders - including the industry, the Australian Government, the research providers, the local community - to ensure we are doing what we can to support the maugean skate and to support the future sustainable continuation of marine farming in Macquarie Harbour. We are deeply committed to that.