Parliamentary inquiry rules Tasmania’s salmon industry must be reformed

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A report into Tasmania’s salmon industry has recommended a pause on the expansion of fish farms in the country while an aquaculture industry plan is revised.

While Tasmania’s salmon industry brings in billions of dollars to the island each year, it has been plagued by concerns of disease outbreaks, biosecurity issues and “compromised” approval processes. The report found penalties for breaches of environmental regulations on the island were lower than elsewhere in the country.

A report from the Legislative Council committee has acknowledged that the industry faced difficulties as it grew, recognising that it was difficult for efforts to “keep pace with the protection…of public waterways has been a challenge.”

The inquiry, looking at the 2017 Salmon Industry Growth Plan, concluded it should be revised as part of a larger Marine Plan for Tasmania. In the meantime, it stated that fish farms in the region should not be expanded.

The state’s government has previously announced an industry growth plan be replaced by a new 10-year plan in January 2023, with a moratorium on expanding leased farming areas currently being drawn up.

The report also recommended a plan to reduce onshore finfish farming sites, with priority being given to “ceasing operations in sensitive, sheltered and biodiverse areas.”

Within its findings, the inquiry states that the government should review all finfish farm environmental licence conditions and set defined limits for dissolved nitrogen, as well as how much fish can be farmed in an area.

“Our industry is driven and regulated by science-based evidence, so the committee’s call for science-based decisions regarding all aspects of salmon farming is a great reminder of what we are already doing,” Sue Graue from the Tasmanian Salmon Growers Association said.

Currently, Tasmania’s state government is planning to grow the salmon farming industry in the region to $2 billion a year by 2030. While the inquiry has presented a series of recommendations, it is ultimately down to the Minister for Primary Industries and Water, Jo Palmer, to make the final decision on fish farm development.

Palmer stated that the government will take the time to consider the report, reiterating how the 10-year salmon plan will help to support a sustainable industry.