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Tassal Fish Farm Operations - Issues

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Thursday, 15 October 2020

Tags: Fish Farms, Bruny Island

Tassal Fish Farm Operations - Issues, Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP, 15 October 2020


Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Mr Deputy Speaker, Tasmanians have a very special connection to their waterways. We are prolific campers, fishers and swimmers and we cherish the island and its incredible coastlines and rivers.

The palawa people lived sustainably from the bounty of the sea long before Europeans were even aware that lutruwita existed. People living in coastal communities around the state or visiting their favourite beaches are highly attuned to their place and we notice the smallest changes, the shifting sandbars and the erosion of a favourite fishing spot.

The gradual increase in heavy-duty ropes and black plastic piping that is being washed up onto shorelines around the state have not gone unnoticed by locals, but it was the stinking mass of filamentous algae in Long Bay on the Tasman Peninsula in December last year that would not have been missed by anybody.

The peninsula residents were expected to suffer the idea that the massive expansion of Tassal's fish farm operations into Long Bay had nothing to do with the green slime that was choking the seagrass there, but anybody who saw Long Bay beforehand understands that the approximately 150 tonnes of dissolved nitrogen from the nearby fish farm operation clearly was the cause.

The fact is Tasmanians know what is going on and they are seeing step changes in marine ecosystems around beaches that are being spoiled and are watching waterways being emptied of fish. They know something is very wrong.

The most recent evidence was a tremendous amount of filamentous algae that washed up on the incredibly popular and beautiful White Beach near Nubeena on the peninsula. A resident called my office gobsmacked and emotional at the sight. Residents have never seen that level of algae on White Beach. It has always been a pristine, white sand coastline.

It beggars belief that the nutrient load from the local Tassal farm operation that wasrecently established is not obviously the cause, if not a major contributor if not the total cause.

We wrote to the EPA and we are not satisfied with the answers that were provided. They were vague, they were non-specific, they were limp. They were essentially unconcerned and had no substance in their ability or preparedness to do anything concrete to either investigate or to make sure that this situation does not happen again.

The community is not going to take this sort of rubbish lying down. They are sick of the paper shuffling waffle and the inaction when damage occurs like this. It is the outright rubberstamping by the Government of industry expansion and self-monitoring of impacts on the environment that is making people sick. They are seeing the changes in their coastlines and the waterways that they love are getting worse and they are not going to put up with it any longer.

This week, the Bruny Island Killora Community Association joined with the Tasmanian Alliance for Marine Protection. They are calling for fish farm operations to leave the north D'Entrecasteaux Channel off Bruny Island. It is the constant noise and lights which has turned this peaceful area into an industrial farming wastewater landscape. They cannot deal with it any longer. The community were never consulted about the appropriateness of that site.

The flourishing fish rich marine channel was changed from public to private at the stroke of a pen and they were never asked. Bruny locals are gravely concerned that the north D'Entrecasteaux Channel has been fundamentally damaged by large scale fish farming. The shallow waters and the weak currents just cannot flush out the immense amount of fish waste that is going into the area.

Gone are the flatheads, gone are the scallops. Instead there is algae and jellyfish. The north D'Entrecasteaux Channel ecological collapse is not a one-off occurrence. The disaster of Macquarie Harbour should have been warning enough about the woeful state of our regulation and our planning framework. It should be protecting marine life from the impacts of fish farming but instead it is entirely toothless.

Currently, the industry can effectively pick and choose where they want to farm and the functioning, so-called, of the Marine Farm Planning Review Panel process was axed by the Labor Party and now is ultimately dictated to by the minister of the day. We saw that process play out during the Storm Bay assessment. The EPA does not have any say over where fish pens are located. This means that the Marine Farm Planning Review Panel is the only body able to conduct an environmental assessment before a lease is established. During the Storm Bay assessment, two independent expert scientists resigned from the panel because the process they said was 'inherently compromised'.

I am not surprised that communities around the Tasman Peninsula and Bruny Island have lost faith in working with the industry and the Government to sort our fish farm impacts. Good on them for standing up and coming out and making a stand. I am very confident more people will come out and join them.

Until we completely rework the laws that govern the industry and put the emphasis back on the community to have a say, and on scientists to regulate for the protection of the environment, we will not have sustainable industry and we will have increasing loss of marine diversity.