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Urgent Action Needed to Save Giant Freshwater Lobster

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Tags: Giant Freshwater Lobster, Threatened Species, Floods, Environment, Native Forest Logging, Extinction

Ms WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Madam Speaker, I rise tonight to talk about the Astacopsis gouldi, the giant freshwater lobster.  It was referred to previously by the member for Lyons who mentioned in his adjournment speech, amongst other things, Lobster Falls.  This is the largest freshwater invertebrate on the planet and it is found only in the north-west and north-eastern river systems of Tasmania.  It can grow up to a metre long and live for 40 years.  Unfortunately, it is now categorised as endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's red list and is vulnerable on the state and the federal threatened species list.

Todd Walsh knows all about it.  I was very saddened to learn that tens of thousands of lobsters were estimated to have died in the record winter floods in June.  Farmers reported finding hundreds of these huge, incredible animals washed up, dead or dying in paddocks alongside rocks and other debris.  We know any recovery is going to be very slow and difficult for the lobster as the flood waters have washed away their log homes and their hiding places together the other degradation that has happened to their habitat in those regions.  It adds an extra imperative to acting very swiftly if we are going to save this species from extinction.  It needs its habitat protected more than ever.  We know habitat destruction is the major threat to the survival of this giant freshwater lobster. 

The federal draft recovery plan identifies that heavy sedimentation in logging areas is the key threat in about half of the river catchments where the lobster lives or may still live.  We know the creation of reserves and buffer zones around the headwaters, downstream from where the lobster lives, is not enough in itself.  We know sediment deposits happen as a result of upstream forestry operations.  This then affects the in-stream waters up to 10 kilometres downstream of where logging operations or other habitat destruction happens.  It is critical that the headwaters and catchments of specific Tasmanian rivers have to be protected so that the sediment flowing downstream does not occur and does not contaminate the water and cause the death of the remaining lobsters. 

In many ways, we are lucky in our quest in Tasmania to save this highly endangered species.  It is extremely rare to have a known threat for which we have a clear and achievable recovery plan that is scientifically credible. 

We know the Government has to act now to amend the Tasmanian draft recovery plan.  It has to declare no-logging zones around the headwaters and river ways that feed this critical habitat for the lobster.  They are quite specific: the Forester River in eastern Tasmania, the Black River, the Franklin, Horton and Lindsay rivers, the Flowerdale and Hebe rivers in western Tasmania, the Dip River and all the water tributaries on the Dip Range.  No-logging zones is the preferable situation in those areas.  At a minimum, the draft recovery plan needs to ensure those areas have buffer zones of at least 50 metres.  It also needs to be backed up; a commitment to provide resources to implement the actions set out in the recovery plan.  If that were done, the giant freshwater lobster would be on a pathway to survival, as opposed to extinction. 

We can implement 50-metre buffers around the rivers listed or we can sign the death warrant for that lobster.  It is an incredible species, the only one of its kind.  It gives this minister, Minister Groom, an opportunity to do something significant in his portfolio.  He is under attack and this is an area where he could show some strength and spine.  I urge the minister to take that action.  I believe the community of the east coast will be saddened but not surprised by the response of the Government and the Labor Party to the motion we had on the books today.

Madam SPEAKER - Order.  You cannot reflect on a debate.  The vote has been taken.

Ms WOODRUFF - There is an opportunity for the Government to take action in a number of areas and we look forward to the Government having an epiphany on these matters.