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Macquarie Harbour, Tasmania. (Photo Credit: M. Murphy)

Accusations voiced against Tasmanian salmon farmers

Click on the flag for more information about Australia AUSTRALIA
Thursday, March 05, 2015, 04:50 (GMT + 9)

There have been claims at the Parliament of Tasmania that Macquarie Harbour may not be healthy enough for salmon farming.

This waterway is home to large-scale fish farms owned by salmon producers Tassal, Huon Aquaculture and Petuna.

Media sources reported that a leader from the Green Party tabled a leaked email sent to the Premier signed by Huon managing director Peter Bender and Petuna chief executive Mark Porter, detailing their concerns about the water quality given some fish farmed by Tassal needed to be treated with antibiotics.

This email, dated September last year, referred to Tassal reporting it had five pens with a “Yersinia outbreak that will be treated with antibiotics” and stated that “this represented a clear warning sign that the environment they are growing fish in is becoming compromised,” The Mercury reported.

Given this accusation, Tassal chief Mark Ryan stated that Macquarie Harbour was monitored and was the first Tassal farm site assessed within the Aquaculture Steward Council framework.

The firm’s sustainability director Linda Sams explained that the Government had reviewed the information and looked at all the circumstances.

“[…] We report monthly on our densities and biomass, we've never breached anything there," she pointed out.

For their part, Bender and Porter remarked they were concerned any bid to raise the cap on fish stocks could adversely impact on the environment.

Meanwhile, Primary Industries Minister Jeremy Rockliff explained the Government was vigilant when it came to monitoring the activities of salmon farms.

The minister added that as a result of an investigation there was evidence of lower but increasing dissolved oxygen in the bottom waters but the surface water quality where the fish are growing is within the modelled and regulated parameters and fish production is normal.

However, media sources reported that green party leaders and environmentalists are worried the waterway may be becoming “compromised.”

Rebecca Hubbard from Environment Tasmania highlighted the aquaculture expansion had caused a decline in the health of Macquarie Harbour, ABC informed.

"There was a lack of science to show that this huge expansion - some 360 per cent increase in production - would be sustainable. There just wasn't the science to demonstrate that," she claimed.

And she went on to say: "The regulator erred in its approval of that expansion and it's continuing to fail in managing the impacts from this expansion as it seems from these leaked documents."

Therefore, the environmentalist called on the State Government to intervene to protect the environment.

"The Tasmanian Government must step in and commit to destocking salmon farms and salmon from Macquarie Harbour back to the pre-expansion levels," she suggested.

Farmed salmon is the most valuable of Tasmania's aquaculture industries, worth more than half a billion dollars a year.

Besides, West Coast Mayor Phil Vickers said the Macquarie Harbour salmon farm was vital to the region's economy, which had suffered from a decline in the mining industry.

"We ought to stick to the science and the facts and just trying to make an issue out of two bits of paper, I think all that it creates is terrible uncertainty within the job side of the business," Vickers stated. 


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