EPA continue to play Russian roulette with Macquarie Harbour

Issued: 23 May 2017

Huon Aquaculture has today released its submissions to the EPA on the Draft Determination for Macquarie Harbour that sets out proposed biomass limits and waste capture conditions in advance of a final decision on or before 1 June 2017.

“Huon Aquaculture has today written to the EPA Chairman, Warren Jones, requesting that the impending biomass decision and attending waste capture proposals for Macquarie Harbour be reviewed by the EPA Board to ensure jobs and salmon at Huon’s operations are not put at risk,” says Huon Aquaculture Co-Founder and Executive Director, Frances Bender.

“There is a lot at stake here. The livelihoods of our staff, the welfare of our salmon, the environment, our reputation, and millions of dollars are put at risk by short-term decision making that seems to only consider the economic and social considerations of one company let alone the broader impacts on the environment,” she said.

The impact of 18,000 tonnes of biomass on dissolved oxygen is not considered in the Draft Determination or Statement of Reasons.

“The link between low dissolved oxygen and seafloor (benthic) recovery is a strong and scientifically proven one in Macquarie Harbour – as evidenced by the most recent IMAS Report which says “It is important to keep in mind that DO levels appeared to be the major determinant of the deterioration in benthic condition witnessed in Spring 2016, and whilst levels are currently higher, they are not dissimilar to the levels observed this time last year with mid-water levels remaining low.”

“If the proposed waste capture technology was operating perfectly less than 50% of the nitrogen waste will be collected using these systems, with the majority released into the water column as soluble nutrient. And that’s if it all works perfectly. There is no evidence globally to indicate they have ever been used successfully and there is no acknowledgement from the EPA that there will be an impact from the significant level of uncaptured nutrients and contribution to to oxygen drawdown,” she said.

“Using Macquarie Harbour as a guinea pig for new and unproven technologies that could impact both the environment and our operations seems reckless in the extreme.

“Much of the information about any proposed waste capture method will be deemed “trade secrets” and therefore unavailable for scrutiny by the public or other waterway users that may be impacted by the activity.

“That’s why Huon is of the strong view that any waste capture proposals must be assessed by the EPA Board under Section 27 of Environmental Management and Pollution Control Act 1994 (EMPCA). It is the only assessment process that would allow Huon, the community and fellow waterway users the confidence to accept the use of proposed waste capture systems.

Huon remains concerned about the health of Macquarie Harbour and maintains that the science indicates a lower biomass of around 10,000 tonnes is needed to ensure the long-term sustainable future of the waterway.

“The EPA Director has confirmed to us that the biomass is expected to reach 18,000 tonnes this year. That’s 6,000 tonnes over what he said in the media. It is more than the environment over there can handle and risks the long-term sustainability of the waterway for salmon farming. It is simply unacceptable.

“The conditions in Macquarie Harbour right now are worse than they were the same time last year. There is an ongoing downward trend. These are warning signs that are being comprehensively ignored by this latest Draft Determination.

“We are asking the EPA Board to review this decision because this simply does not add up.

“At Huon we have taken the hard decisions to reduce our stocking in Macquarie Harbour. We are harvesting early and will continue to do that to reduce pressure on the waterway.  It has come at a cost but that cost is worth it to protect the long-term sustainability of jobs, our operations and the environment.

“We are not proposing that Tassal cull their fish but we are suggesting that there are other ways to reduce biomass that do not risk our operations in the process. Early harvest impacts the size of the fish and the amount that you can sell them for. The upside is that the fish are harvested safely and humanely without risking job security or the long term future of the waterway.

For a copy of the submission click here.

ENDS

For further information contact:

Jane Gallichan Corporate Affairs Manager
0400 159 664 or
jgallichan@huonaqua.com.au

Background information:

  • The biomass limit in Macquarie Harbour should be reduced to below 10,000T (total industry biomass was 10,169 in August 2016 when environmental conditions were already compromised).
  • The determination of 12,000 tonnes biomass and up to 18,000 tonnes biomass is contrary to the environmental monitoring results and expert reports, including the recent IMAS report, which all indicate that the environmental conditions in the Harbour are deteriorating.
  • Peak biomass (highest level) last year (Jan-Dec) was 16,200 tonnes and EPA proposing to allow up to 18,000 tonnes this year.
  • The determination appears to be largely based on the preservation of the current stock levels and one operator’s planned production and harvest schedule and the elevation of these short term economic interests will defeat the primary consideration in the context of the medium and long term economic objective – including the protection of jobs – of planning for a sustainable future for marine farming in the Harbour;
  • The Draft Determination fails to comply with the Federal Minister’s Decision (NCAPM) to ensure that the Harbour’s environmental values are protected and which is causing or is likely to cause, environmental harm to the Harbour.
  • The flow on impacts from the EPA’s Draft Determination significantly increase the risks to fish health and biosecurity in MH in 2017. Huon notes the total absence of fish health and biosecurity considerations in the SoR.

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