Experts quit salmon farm approval panel but documents explaining why are redacted

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Questions raised surrounding spate of resignations over salmon farming expansions in Tasmania.

It’s the question that’s got people scratching their heads in Tasmania, Australia – why a panel of experts decided to resign from eight-person Marine Farm Review Panel last November. Now ABC news reports that a heavily redacted freedom of information document is fueling even more queries.

Professor Barbara Nowak, Louise Cherrie and Lia Morris resigned from the panel after 30,000 tonnes of farmed salmon operations were greenlit in Storm Bay, Tasmania.

Morris did was not listed as being part of the decision-making for the Huon and Tassal expansion approvals.

Tasmania’s Primary Industries Minister, Guy Barnett, received a letter from Professor Barbara Nowak and Louise Cherrie, outlining their reasons for resigning but has since refused to explain why they quit.

On Friday, ABC obtained documents outlining those reasons – however, the parts which would have explained why were blackened out. According to Tasmania’s Right to Information officer who dealt with the request, the information was exempt from release because “its disclosure would divulge information communicated in confidence to the Minister.” The documents were initially requested the Tasmanian Greens, a political party who have a policy platform of placing more restrictions on salmon farming.

The publication believes that the resignations may have been in protest over the process for approving an expansion of salmon farming in Storm Bay – but that has not yet been proven.

Approvals from Tassal (360 hectares) and Huon Aquaculture (330 hectares) are going to account for 150 per cent of the current total output of Tasmania’s salmon industry – which is 52,000 tonnes.