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Salmon Industry - Marine Operations of JBS and Cooke Canada

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Tuesday, 18 October 2022

Tags: Fish Farms, Marine Environment

Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Mr Speaker, I rise to speak about the accelerating harmful marine operations of JBS, parent company of Huon Aquaculture, and Cooke Canada shortly to be the parent company of Tassal.

In 2017, Tassal CEO, Mark Ryan, trumpeted his companies claim to be setting the salmon industry on a sustainable trajectory by getting out of inshore waters and going 'oceanic'. Huon also made supportive noises to follow suit at the time, and those public spin comments were made just before the consultation process and assessment processes for the massive Storm Bay expansion. Luckily, we did not hold our breath because in August 2018, Huon opened a 'zombie' finfish lease in Norfolk Bay. They had pens of POM-V infected salmon that they needed to park somewhere, so their fish did not infect the rest of their asset. They chose Norfolk Bay, the shallow waters next to Lime Bay Reserve, to become a convenient hospital site for them for their diseased fish. That was a decision based entirely on profit to manage out of control biosecurity issues that were their fault, that derived from their rapid and unchecked expansion. Greed in other words. There was no public consultation process. The community were outraged and disgusted and there was no assessment of pollution and vehicle impacts on the sheltered and highly biodiverse Norfolk Bay and recreational fishers and people who love those waters were deeply offended. Even the endangered red hand fish, the fragile seagrass meadows, the flathead and a nearby shark nursery, did not rate it for the EPA to intervene and they happily signed a temporary use of that area. Temporary went on for much longer than Huon Aquaculture first said.

Fast forward to 2022, Huon has not learned anything and they have just announced via a Facebook page that they will be setting up 12 hectares of industrial farming just on the other side of Garden Island Sands near Randalls Bay. Anyone who knows that area as I and the locals do understand what a special and to date, a relatively unspoiled part of the Huon River those waters are. Huon's plan is to use that area during summer in preparation for warm water temperatures and their argument is that they will need to separate pens for fish that are being farmed in Storm Bay so that they can achieve, 'optimal growing conditions'. How does this happen without any public consultation process and without any development approval process? Mind you, there have been no pens in this farm lease, we are informed by locals who have lived there since 1972 at all in that period.

So, you have a new site. Yes, it is zombie lease and so it is staked out on a piece of paper somewhere that is 'owned by Huon Aquaculture'. Effectively it is a zombie lease that is being brought back to life for the convenience of an industry which has pretended to Tasmanians is moving out into Storm Bay and much further beyond but they have no intention of doing that at all so one would have thought with climate change, that dealing with the warm water issue is front and foremost of a company's planning but clearly they have no plans to do that. They are calling this 'an emergency use of the lease', so that is how it gets through all the loopholes that have been provided by the Liberals with the support of the Labor party and through the EPA to make sure that companies can keep doing whatever they want in Tasmania's waters if it suits their bottom line.

Cooke and Tassal are exactly the same. The lease licence that was held by Tassal at Graveson Point in Petcheys Bay on the Huon River is currently Mark Ryan, CEO, promised they would be leaving that in 2017 but instead they have done a 180. They have gone back into that lease just as Tassal have gone back and increased the biomass in Tinderbox Reserve Lease since then and started a completely new site at Long Bay in Tasman Peninsular. The community of Petchey's Bay have had enough. They are organising a flotilla for this Saturday morning to voice their protest very loudly at Tassal's continued presence on that beautiful river. They are sick of the lies. They have had enough of the noise. They have had enough of the highly dangerous debris and the plastic pollution all along the edges of the Huon River. They are sick to their back teeth of hearing shooting and seeing maimed and dead seals washing up on beaches. They are sick of the pollution that is killing the fish and the seaweed in the Huon River.

It is now an unrecognisable river to what it was eight years ago and that is by the evidence of people who have lived there their whole lives and are quite clear that there is almost nothing left to fish or look at or love in that river. It is a disgrace and it is all under the so-called EPA and with the tick of this Government.

The community will make their voices known and they want to know whether the lease, which is due to expire on 30 November, will actually expire or whether it was part of the contract, a guarantee that was made to Cooke Aquaculture when they took over Tassal. What about the decrepit premises that are littering the Crown land next to that lease? What is going to happen to them? They need to go. Let us be very clear, there is no change, only acceleration under this Government. There is no environmental sustainability because there are no laws that can stop these farms.

The biggest protein producers on the planet have come here to make the most of our waters, to treat them as sewers and pollute them so that they can get as much profit as they want before they skip on and go somewhere else. Well, the community has had enough. It is only in Tasmania where this can happen. Nowhere else in the world has shallow salmon farming.