Mercury (Hobart) - Magazine - - Community -

Con­cerns about the im­pact of fish farm ex­pan­sion have been in the air since 2009, when a group made up of salmon farm­ers and rep­re­sen­ta­tives from CSIRO, the In­sti­tute for Ma­rine and Antarc­tic Stud­ies and the Govern­ment con­firmed a “clear down­ward trend” of dis­solved oxy­gen lev­els in deeper wa­ter.

In July 2015, on the first day of a Se­nate in­quiry into Tas­ma­nia’s aqua­cul­ture in­dus­try, Premier Will Hodg­man called the in­quiry a “witch hunt”. Since then, en­vi­ron­men­tal mon­i­tor­ing and re­views ap­pear to have strug­gled to keep up with in­dus­try growth.

Re­forms have been pro­voked by in­tense me­dia scru­tiny – in­clud­ing the ABC’s pro­gram which late last year re­vealed damn­ing ev­i­dence about the en­vi­ron­men­tal degra­da­tion of Mac­quarie Har­bour – as well as op­po­si­tion from in­side the salmon in­dus­try (for ex­am­ple, Huon Aqua­cul­ture’s on­go­ing le­gal pro­ceed­ings against the State Govern­ment). In­creas­ingly, high-pro­file cam­paigns by En­vi­ron­ment Tas­ma­nia and Ma­rine Pro­tec­tion Tas­ma­nia (with lo­cal shack owner and AFL star Nick Riewoldt on their 1500+ data­base) have also held the Govern­ment to ac­count.

The Govern­ment’s lat­est Draft Sus­tain­able In­dus­try Growth Plan for the $730 mil­lion salmon in­dus­try, re­leased last week, iden­ti­fies “Grow Zones” and “No Grow Zones” with ex­pan­sion “largely oceanic rather than es­tu­ar­ine” and a new com­mit­ment that “other than the small ex­ist­ing leases, the en­tire East Coast of Tas­ma­nia will be salmon-farm free”.

Tas­sal has de­scribed its Oke­hamp­ton lease, on a pre­ex­ist­ing mus­sel farm, as Aus­tralia’s first “eco-aqua­cul­ture” site and says it has strong sup­port at Tri­abunna, be­ing the largest em­ployer in the town. Op­po­nents say just be­cause there’s a pre-ex­ist­ing site, that doesn’t give them a green light to farm salmon. A Tas­ma­nia-wide coali­tion of com­mu­nity and in­dus­try in­ter­ests has this week called on both ma­jor par­ties to agree to a mora­to­rium on lease al­lo­ca­tion un­til what it de­scribes as gov­er­nance prob­lems are ad­dressed and “proper com­mu­nity con­sul­ta­tion” is un­der­taken.

En­vi­ron­ment Tas­ma­nia de­scribes the pro­posed 4000 tonnes (800,000 fish) stock load over 80ha as “in­ten­sive”. Tas­sal has about 7800 tonnes across three leases to­talling 280ha in Mac­quarie Har­bour. Tas­ma­ni­ans have un­til Fri­day, Septem­ber 8, to pro­vide feed­back on the draft plan, which will be de­liv­ered by June next year.

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