The law allows the Tasmanian salmon industry to use various devices to scare fur seals away from salmon pens, and latest data shows Australia’s second-largest salmon producer, Huon, used the most explosives.
The revelation Monday comes courtesy of The Guardian, which filed a Right to Information request with Tasmania’s Department of Natural Resources and Environment.
“The level of seal interactions on a marine farming lease and the need to deploy seal deterrent devices is influenced by a range of factors, including lease location and local environment, design and condition of infrastructure, fish stocking circumstances, and operational activities,” the department wrote in the report released to the publication.
While it showed that Brazilian-owned Huon’s use of explosives or “seal crackers” declined by 5 percent in Q2 of 2022 year-on-year, the total of 1,887 explosives it used still far exceeds that of the state’s two other salmon farmers: Tassal and Petuna.
Huon also accounted for all seal deaths – four in Q2 last year and two in Q2 2022, the record shows.
Huon told The Guardian that it used more explosives than its competitors because about two-thirds of its salmon is produced at offshore sites where seals are more prevalent.
A Huon spokesperson was quoted as saying that seals often used the entry platform to its pens as a resting spot, but structural changes to the pen walkways and netting in the past few months had reduced interactions. The department’s report in Q3 of 2022 shall show whether these measures have worked.
The data shows mixed results regarding the use of seal deterrent devices by Australia’s largest salmon producer, Tassal. While its use of explosives went down by 72 percent from 831 in Q2 of last year to 233 this year, its use of bean bag rounds went up to 70 rounds from 31, representing a 192-percent increase. Of the tree farmers, Tassal is the only one that still uses “bean bags,” which are fabric-coated plastic shells containing lead shot, the report showed.
Cooke Inc, which last week announced it has acquired Tassal subject to customary closing conditions, was warned by an activist group that “the public will not accept increases in animal cruelty in Tasmanian waters.”
Petuna, the smallest of the three operators, decreased its use of explosives by 31 percent in Q2 this year to 301.