Petuna denies large fish being caught by fisherman are its escaped salmon

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Any links and claims to anglers catching large fish with our escape are incorrect, says Tasmanian salmon farmer.

On Monday, SalmonBusiness reported that the Australian salmon farmer Petuna lost thousands of fish when a pen broke from its mooring. One month ago, over 50,000 small Atlantic salmon escaped from the nets of Petuna’s Macquarie Harbour farms on Tasmania’s west coast, the company announced. It lost 14 tonnes of fish from the incident.

Soon after however, claims started to rise on social media that fish larger than the 250g were being caught by local fishermen. ABC reporter Leon Compton also questioned this.

4 kilo mark
A fisherman called Matthew Morgan did a livestream on the Facebook page Wild Fishers for Sustainable Salmon Farms in Tasmanian Waters, in which he asked why anglers were landing big fish: “The funny thing is none of the amateurs are catching 250g fish, i have numerous photos of bins full of fish and they’re all approaching the 4 kilo mark,” he said. The page has says it is a “discussion on Salmon and fin fish farming and it’s effects on the environment, juvenile fish nurseries, professional and recreational wild sea fishers”.

On the fishing shop Mozza’s Friday Night Hot Bite and Tackle Torque page posted a few images on Facebook early on Tuesday: “Dwayne Evans cleaning up on the escaped fugitives up at Strahan!(…) Someone baked them a Christmas pudding with a hacksaw blade in it maybe?”

PHOTO: Mozza’s Friday Night Hot Bite and Tackle Torque

No connection
Petuna Aquaculture said there is no connection between its loss of tiny Atlantic salmon with reports that anglers are catching fully grown salmon in large numbers in Macquarie Harbour.

“The fish we lost weighed only around 250 grams having only recently been transferred from our hatchery at Cressy to growing pens in Macquarie Harbour. Under no circumstance could they be described as big fish. They are tiny,” Petuna’s General Manager – Strategy and Technical, Richard Miller,” told SalmonBusiness in a statement.

“It appears that our situation has been incorrectly linked to claims of large size fish being caught in the Harbour.

“Petuna reports any fish loss through the appropriate regulatory channels, as we have always done. If Petuna had a known fish loss relating to big fish, this also would have been reported appropriately,” Miller said.

“In terms of production, the small fish that escaped represent only around 14 tonnes of the company’s annual production of several thousand tonnes. However, we are undertaking measures to try to prevent a similar situation occurring again,” he added.

The Mercury reported that there has been another Petuna escape whose numbers have not yet been disclosed according to the Environment Protection Authority.

What size were these fish and how many fish escaped?

“Those too were tiny fish. We only know some were missing because of food consumption reduction. So no mass loss. We will count the fish when conditions are suitable within the next two weeks. That’s why the EPA has not given numbers,” a Petuna spokesperson told SalmonBusiness.

Macquarie Harbour
Australia’s biggest salmon company Tassal shares salmon farming operations with Petuna in Macquarie Harbour.

The two companies stuck a deal in 2018 for the joint venture. ABC reported that the arrangement will allow the “two companies to share leases and separate baby fish from mature fish, which the companies said will prevent fish disease and improve biosecurity”.

“No Tassal fish were involved in the escape that has been reported here in the media,” a spokesperson told SalmonBusiness.