Pressure mounts over Tasmania's Macquarie Harbour salmon review

"No legal basis" to reverse salmon permits, says Salmon Tasmania CEO Luke Martin. Tasmanian Premier Jeremy Rockliff calls for decision by end of March, saying his government "100% back the continuation of salmon farming in Macquarie Harbour".
View of Macquarie Harbour, Tasmania. Photo: AdobeStock / Alec Trusler.

View of Macquarie Harbour, Tasmania. Photo: AdobeStock / Alec Trusler.

The controversy over salmon farming in Tasmania's Macquarie Harbour continues, with local stakeholders putting pressure on Australia's central government to reach a decision by March 2024.

Salmon farming has been permitted in the harbour area since 2012. However, concerns over the conservation status of the Maugean skate, a rare ancient fish species found only in Macquarie Harbour, spurred the Australian government to undertake a review.

The ultimate decision falls on the desk of Australia's Minister for the Environment and Water, Tanya Plibersek MP.

Local industry representatives and Tasmanian government officials are lobbying for the status quo to be maintained, citing the impact of uncertainty on local businesses and communities, while arguing that measures are already in place to protect Maugean skate populations within the harbour.

In recent days, Tasmania's major salmon farming company, Salmon Tasmania, has submitted an official response to the governmental review, adding to the pressure on Plibersek.

Salmon Tasmania submits official response to Australian government review, says "committed to transparency"

In its submission, Salmon Tasmania argues there is no scientific evidence that removing aquaculture would benefit the skate's future in its native habitat. It also argues there is no legal basis for reversing the Australian Government's 2012 decision to allow salmon farming in the harbour.

The submission also includes new scientific analysis which Salmon Tasmania says shows aquaculture has only a minimal impact on the oxygen levels crucial for the skate's environment.

Luke Martin, CEO of Salmon Tasmania, said his company has also initiated a $7 million oxygenation project to offset any potential impacts on oxygen levels in the harbour.

"Tasmania’s salmon industry is highly regulated, informed by some of the best marine scientists in the world, and uses the most advanced technology available,” Martin said in a press release.

“We are committed to transparency with the Tasmanian community, and releasing our submission today so anyone who is interested in aquaculture, or is genuinely concerned about the Skate, can see the facts for themselves, and can have confidence that our industry’s presence in Macquarie Harbour is not a critical threat to this endangered species.

“We are confident our industry not only has a long-term future in Macquarie Harbour, but our industry’s presence on the West Coast means we can have a genuinely positive impact and invest in the effort to secure the Skate," he added.

Martin called for a quick decision from Minister Plibersek to end uncertainty for the region.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>The Maugean skate, only found in the brackish estuarine waters of Macquarie Harbour in western Tasmania. </p></div>

The Maugean skate, only found in the brackish estuarine waters of Macquarie Harbour in western Tasmania.

Photo: David Moreno, Department of Natural Resources and Environment Tasmania.

Tasmanian Premier calls for decision on salmon farming before end of March

The Premier of Tasmania, Jeremy Rockliff, has added to the public pressure on Plibersek to push through a swift decision on salmon farming in Macquarie Harbour.

“My Government’s position is clear: We 100 per cent back the continuation of salmon farming in Macquarie Harbour, and we stand side by side with the almost 400 workers, their families and wider community,” Rockliff said in an official statement.

“We know that this review is having a grave impact on the mental health and wellbeing of hundreds of workers, their families and entire communities that rely on salmon farming in Macquarie Harbour."

“There is no need for Minister Plibersek to take a day longer than is needed to provide certainty on the future of the salmon industry in Macquarie Harbour."

“I call on the Albanese Government to provide that by the end of March."

“By providing a decision date, one that is sooner rather than later, they will be providing some much-needed certainty to a community and industry that both needs and deserves it," Rockliff said.

Tasmanian Government says it is committing AUS$ 2.1 million for Maugean skate conservation

The Tasmanian Government announced in January it has launched a conservation action plan for the Maugean skate, committing an additional AUS$2.1 million "to ensure the long-term survival of the skate population in Macquarie Harbour".

Roger Jaensch, Tasmania's Minister for Environment and Climate Change said that, in addition to supporting captive breeding, the funding "is contributing to modelling, monitoring, and project management, and will inform decisions that balance the protection of the skate while acknowledging the economic and social values of the West Coast.

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