‘A kick in the guts’: Tazzy premier promises a fight after minister announces salmon industry review

Editorial Staff

Tasmania’s Environment Protection Authority has placed new conditions on aquaculture leaseholders in the state. 

On Thursday, Australian Federal Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek triggered a review of aquaculture operations in Macquarie Harbour the home of Tasmania’s salmon farming industry, when she announced two months of community consultation starting in December.

The review comes after environmental groups lobbied Plibersek to re-examine the approval given in 2012 for expansion of the state’s salmon farming industry, arguing it had an unacceptable impact on the endangered Maugean skate. Plibersek said she was obliged to undertake community consultation under national environment laws.

She said salmon farming could continue while the process occurred and it would take “some time” to review the information. If the review progresses, there will be a more rigorous assessment including a potential pause of salmon farming in the harbour.

Acting Tasmanian Premier Michael Ferguson said the federal government also wanted to speak with the state about funding different job opportunities on the west coast.

“That is a clear signal the Australian government is moving on jobs in Tasmania,” he told reporters. “We’ve seen this before where Labor and the Greens team up. “Yet again they want to sacrifice jobs in our state to satisfy the consciences of environmental groups on the mainland.”

Ferguson pledged the “world’s biggest” fight for hundreds of families who depend on Macquarie Harbour salmon farming. Experts have warned the ancient skate is on the brink of extinction, threatened by poor water quality.

New conditions on leaseholders

Tasmania’s Environment Protection Authority (EPA) on Thursday renewed the 10 marine farming leases in Macquarie Harbour for two years.

It placed three new conditions on lease holders, including for them to provide an estimate of oxygen consumption from farming activity. The EPA noted dissolved oxygen levels, a key marker of water quality, remained significantly below pre-2010 levels across most of the harbour.

West Coast mayor Shane Pitt said the federal government decision was a “kick in the guts” and any salmon farm reductions would put a quarter of the jobs in the town of Strahan at risk.

“Over half of the students at Strahan Primary School have parents working in the aquaculture industry,” he said.

Luke Martin, CEO of Salmon Tasmania, which represents aquaculture companies, said he was confident science and operating procedures would hold up to scrutiny. “Regulatory oversight by the EPA will provide the evidence needed to ensure the industry can continue in the harbour for many years to come,” he said.


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