November 20, 2023
Australia signals possible salmon farming restrictions in Tasmania amid threats to endangered fish
Australia's Environment Minister, Tanya Plibersek, has issued a warning that salmon-farm licensing in Tasmania could be under reconsideration, in response to growing concerns about the decline of the endangered species of fish, Maugean skate, SeafoodSource reported.
Environmental groups, including The Australia Institute, the Bob Brown Foundation, and the Environmental Defenders Office, have urged the Australian government to review salmon licensing under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.
A recent study by the University of Tasmania linked aquaculture operations in Tasmania to the diminishing population of the Maugean skate, a species endemic to Macquarie Harbour. Over the past seven years, the Maugean skate's population has decreased by half, raising concerns that the species could be on the brink of extinction, particularly with the looming threat of extreme weather events.
Plibersek's letter to Tasmania Premier Jeremy Rockliff suggests a potential pause in salmon-farm operations if the industry lacks necessary environmental approvals. The minister said she is committed to supporting sustainable practices while complying with legal obligations.
In response, Rockliff expressed strong opposition to any limitations or shutdown of the salmon industry, emphasising its significance in supporting jobs and local economies. He vowed to defend the industry against potential federal government actions.
The Tasmanian salmon industry, facing scrutiny, extended a conservation programme in August 2023 to aid the preservation of the Maugean skate. Despite industry efforts, tensions persist, with a recent report from The Australia Institute claiming that Tasmania's salmon industry pays minimal taxes. The report alleges that the three main salmon-farming companies—Tassal, Huon Aquaculture, and Sealord Australia—paid only 0.7% in taxes on sales exceeding AUD 7 billion over the last nine years.
The Australia Institute further contends that the tax rate is 8.8% of the companies' taxable income, with no taxes paid in the last three years. The report criticises the industry for downplaying environmental concerns and alleges a decade-long awareness of potential issues with fish farming in Macquarie Harbour.