Huon Aquaculture today announced that it will seek an injunction in the Tasmanian Resource Management and Planning Appeals Tribunal (RMPAT) as early as tomorrow to prevent Tassal from dredging their leases in Macquarie Harbour.
“We are advised that the equipment to undertake the dredging is being put in place in Macquarie Harbour now and we are concerned about the potential environmental and fish harm that could arise from an unproven and risky technology, used in a compromised waterway, in extremely close proximity to our farms and the World Heritage Area,” said Huon Aquaculture Executive Director, Frances Bender.
“There is serious risk of re-suspending heavy metals, toxic substances and disease pathogens in Macquarie Harbour that could severely compromise our fish welfare and the environmental conditions on our leases which are in close proximity. The potential impact to us, a neighbouring operator, risks tens of millions of dollars of production fish.
“We are not aware of anywhere else in the world that dredging under salmon pens is used in a production setting.
“Tassal has sites remote from other operators in the south east of Tasmania and any trial should be undertaken there before it is even considered in such a risky environment as Macquarie Harbour.
In addition, the announcement of Tassal’s dredging proposal on 28 April coincided with the advice that the company would also breach the previous biomass cap of 14,000 tonnes for a period of 8 months by a further 4,000 tonnes and which would be carried on their remaining two leases.
Huon maintains that a biomass limit of 10,000 tonnes or below is needed to allow the Harbour to recover sufficiently and ensure its ongoing viability as a sustainable salmon farming region.
“From Tassal’s public statements they acknowledge that their biomass will be carried on their remaining two leases which would equate to a massive stocking density of something like 50 tonnes per hectare.
“The maximum modelled biomass in the Environmental Impact Statement that allowed the expansion of the industry and which was used to achieve Federal Government approval was 35 tonnes per hectare.
“At a biomass cap of 14,000 tonnes it would be 17 tonnes per hectare
“By comparison, Huon’s current maximum approved stocking rate is only 12.5 tonnes per hectare and Huon is very concerned that stocking levels are well in excess of anything that the waterway can sustain.
“Macquarie Harbour is effectively one lease, so no matter how low our stocking density is, the flow on effect from another operator overstocking may have a direct environmental and financial impact on us.
“All salmon farmers have been briefed on the most recent (confidential draft) of the Institute of Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS) report on Macquarie Harbour and our understanding of the report shows there are still significant ongoing signs that the environment in Macquarie Harbour remains severely compromised. Our experience in the Harbour tells us that some early signs of recovery, while encouraging, are likely to be transient unless proper controls are placed on operations now.
“I am also releasing Huon’s 2017 submissions to the EPA today in advance of the biomass decision on Friday.
“I hope that by being upfront with the community at the earliest opportunity that they will appreciate what we are trying to do – protect the harbour and therefore protect the long term sustainable jobs in our industry.
“I am also making this very public plea for the Premier, Deputy Premier and Minister for Environment to act in the best interest of the long-term reputation and sustainable jobs in our industry and to try and restore the community confidence in our industry that has been eroded by both a lack of genuine transparency and firm, fair government decision making.
“To that end, we wrote to the Premier and the Deputy Premier last Friday and requested that the next biomass decision and any attending conditions be considered by the EPA Board to ensure we are not reliant on the judgement of one individual. Currently the EPA Director does not report to the EPA Board on salmon related matters but under delegation from the Secretary of the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment.
In light of this, Huon reiterates the importance of clear, independent oversight of the decisions being made and that the EPA Board is best placed to review the current proposed biomass and attending management controls to protect the long term sustainability of Macquarie Harbour and the jobs that rely on it.
For further information contact:
Huon Aquaculture Corporate Affairs Manager
0400 159 664