Tasmanian salmon industry panel resignation letters leaked in full

Experts quit salmon farm approval panel but documents explaining why were redacted.

Last November, Professor Barbara Nowak, Louise Cherrie and Lia Morris resigned from the panel after 30,000 tonnes of farmed salmon operations were greenlit in Storm Bay, Tasmania, Australia. Morris was not listed as being part of the decision-making for the Huon and Tassal expansion approvals.

Their resignation letters were at the centre of a report by ABC news – who had requested them in a Freedom of Information requestion. However, those letters were heavily redacted.

Those documents have now been leaked in full.

Not serving the best interests
Professor Barbara Nowak, an expert in aquatic animal health and Louise Cherrie, a specialist in environmental management wrote that:

“The panel was not serving the best interests of the state”
“Our resignations were due to frustration with the process”
“The panel is, as currently structured and within the confines of the legislation, inherently compromised”

The publication reported that the pair said they were supportive of a sustainable salmon industry, and had no affiliations with or biases against any operators, political parties or government departments. The documents were initially requested the Tasmanian Greens, a political party who have a policy platform of placing more restrictions on salmon farming.

Nowak and Cherrie said that they had not received a response from their resignations from Tasmania’s Primary Industries Minister Guy Barnett.

ABC reports the full list of concerns specifically related to the Storm Bay approval:

  • There was no detailed biogeochemical model upon which to determine carrying capacity and nutrient transfer with the lower Derwent Estuary
  • There was no government-endorsed biosecurity plan
  • There was no regulatory guideline to define the standards to which operators should be held
  • The proposed adaptive management strategy did not provide the required assurances and the gathering of additional information proved difficult
  • The natural values of Storm Bay were not mapped and considered, including the amenity owed to communities
Guy Barnett

It’s not yet clear why this information was redacted. When asked by the publication, Guy Barnett wrote in a statement:

“The panel’s recommendations were made after consideration of comprehensive environmental impact statements, public submissions, representations and public hearings. Importantly, the panel found environmental effects associated with marine farming operations can be effectively managed under the development plans and conditions of an environmental licence granted by the Environment Protection Authority.”

Huon’s green-lit new site

Huon hopes to establish the new zone with a maximum leasable area of 230 hectares nearby their existing Storm Bay site, the highest energy aquaculture site in the world. Those approvals, along with Tassal’s are going to account for 150 per cent of the current total output of Tasmania’s salmon industry – which is 52,000 tonnes.

SalmonBusiness has contacted Professor Barbara Nowak for comment on the concerns.


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