Why Tasmania’s Salmon Farms Are So Controversial
Salmon farms just off the coastline of Tasmania are part of a billion-dollar salmon industry.
Globally, around 60% of the salmon that’s produced comes from farms like them.
The salmon from Tasmania’s farms was once marketed as healthy, clean, and environmentally farmed fish, and it’s sold in Aussie supermarkets as well as internationally.
Until this book – along with growing calls from scientists and environmentalists- revealed a darker side of the industry; one that isn’t so clean and is reportedly harming the environment.
Backlash against the salmon farming industry has been growing, and last week Tasmania’s state government announced it was going to totally “reset” the industry.
The Darker Side Of Salmon Farming
Richard Flanagan is a renowned Tasmanian author who wrote the book Toxic.
He thinks that Tasmania’s hugely successful salmon farming industry is actually poisoning Hobart’s drinking water and damaging natural waterways.
But even before the book’s national success, local campaigners had already been calling for the industry to change.
In 2018, 1.35 million salmon and trout died off the West Coast of the island after disease and low levels of oxygen in the harbour.
Many people have claimed that the tragedy was from the compromised environmental health of the harbour that happened because of huge industry expansions over the last decade.
Either way, it resulted in environmental degradation.
And earlier this month, the Head of WWF Australia reportedly admitted in private that Tasmanian salmon farms aren’t as “sustainable” as they’ve been made out to be.
When that came out, it was hugely controversial because WWF had been endorsing the industry’s practice under its certification program up until 2019.
Tasmania’s New Sustainability Plan
The Liberal government’s new reset plan is set to start from the beginning of 2023, and will be implemented over 10 years.
The government’s statement wrote that the plan is underpinned by four main principles.
That there won’t be any net increase in leased fish farm areas in Tasmanian waters, that it will focus on innovation by pushing for more land-based farming and operations in deeper waters, and that it will strive to continuously improve its industry, which will be strictly regulated by independent bodies.
Plus, there will be an immediate one-year waiting period for new farm leases and permits.
But the new reset announcement has been met with mixed reactions.
Tasmania’s Premier Peter Gutwien described it as a way to ensure the industry stands on “sustainable footing not just for the next 10 years but for the longer-term”.
And the Tasmanian Salmonid Growers Association, which heads the three big salmon farming companies in the state – Tassal, Huon Aquaculture, Petuna – has said it is on board.
But others in the industry think the government’s new plan will lead to inevitable job losses, and that it has failed to prepare for that.
The Greens have said that the plan is the Liberal government merely saving face after the widespread backlash.
And environmentalists aren’t seeing it as a win either, but instead just business as usual.