Grisly animal welfare abuses at salmon farms revealed in new Right to Information docments - Environment Tasmania

Grisly animal welfare abuses at salmon farms revealed in new Right to Information docments

Tasmania’s peak environment group is calling for independent observers and observer cameras to be installed immediately at all industrial salmon farms around the state, after a new Right to Information request revealed grisly details of animal cruelty, with over 80 dead dolphins and seals reported and more than 4000 seal bombs or ‘cracker deterrents’ used in a two year period. 

“This report on Tassal and Huon’s practices is a grisly, damning read, with decomposing dolphin heads, seals killed at close range by seal bombs and sedation darts, seals hauled panting and frothing on collars, seals 'hiding' under floats to avoid being shot and live and dead seals trapped together and left for over a week in salmon pens. And this is just what we know from industry self-reporting,” says Laura Kelly, Strategy Director at Environment Tasmania.

“Environment Tasmania is calling for immediate action from Premier Gutwein to end these animal welfare abuses by introducing a requirement for independent observers and the installation of observer cameras at all industrial salmon leases. Observer cameras are common practice in commercial fishing and it is clear that animal cruelty at Tasmania’s salmon feedlots needs to be seen and monitored by the public ,” Ms Kelly said. 

“The RTI documents also reveal that the Tasmanian Government’s Marine Conservation Program raised concerns with salmon farmers in 2019 about the toxic materials seal bombs are made of, requesting advice from the manufacturers on a “non-toxic alternative.” The industry reported using more than 4000 of these bombs in a two year period,with toxic, non-biodegradable waste discharged into the marine environment.

Below are quotes on animals cause of death from the Right to Information Report, which also includes pictures of the 24 dead black-face cormorants killed in one incident on a Huon Aquaculture feedlot in 2019. 

  • ‘Dead seal found stuck in pen that had been stuck in pen since previous sunday.’

  • ‘11.30 am reported seal hauled out on collar, panting, foam around mouth and unresponsive to his presence. Requested video / pics - checked with and they were not willing to provide. suggested that (company vet) would be down there later for planned destruction and he could do a welfare check and euthanise if appropriate. I explained not that simple, process, permits etc. Tentative plan made for ST and to check seal when they both were down there. Subsequently seal died - ST arranged for to collect and ST will collect tommorrow (destruction moved back a day). Received a call from (Tassal SZ Ops manager) this morning to report seal had died - was still in situ on collar - I explained ST will collect it when he's down, be aware of zoonoses when collecting.’ 

  • ‘While letting a few cracker off to disperse some seals, on the outside of a cage at Redcliffs lease a seal surfaced immediately following a cracker detonation, in the immediate vicinity, blew some bubbles and then sank. Seal was not seen again. WO believes it to be deterrent related (verbal opinion to me).’

  • ‘Struck with cracker deterrent’

  • ‘Death due to penetration of scare Cap Dart’

  • ‘The first dart (3ml of Medazolam @5mg/ml) went through the flipper on LHS and then into the flank, not sure if it received the full volume of dart. Seal slowed down slightly but didn’t show significant signs of sedative taking effect after 30mins of observations. · Seal was spending short time on the surface and still quite energetic. Second 3ml dart was deployed (7:50). Dart appeared close to the previous but slightly more central. The last sighting was about 8-10 minutes after this. We then spent a further 10 minutes trying to detect the seal from the edge of the pen. · We then used the dingy to check inside the floating structures of the pen (seal will sometimes ‘hide’ under or around spinner floats when sedated – perhaps they feel more comfortable/secure there), but couldn’t detect it in these areas (8:20). · Divers began looking for seal sub surface (8:30) and found it on the base of the net at about 22m with both darts still attached. Seal was bought to surface at 8:40 and declared deceased by at around 8:45, although only the LHS flank dart was still in place at this time (see photo below). · Once we had retrieved the carcass and secured the pen. I rang you at 9:15 and left a message. 

  • This seal is rolling about on the base of the predator net – no obvious signs of entanglement or trauma. This seal is, however, at a depth exceeding allowable for our divers to retrieve. We will therefore be needing to lift the inner and predator nets shallower to then gain access to the animal (or it may float to the surface in the meantime). Either way we haven’t taken passion yet, and oubt this will be achievable until early next week maybe. 

DPIPWE on toxic materials used to make ‘seal crackers’

“For your information - further to the bean-bag MSDS data sheet I sent you, I sought advice from the manufacturer regarding the material of the containing bag. It is made of a mix of cotton and Kevlar fibres. Kevlar being non-biodegradable. We are liaising with the manufacturer around options for biodegradable and non toxic alternative materials. I will keep you informed.” Concerns raised by DPIPWE’s marine conservation group that materials ……

The full RTI038 can be accessed here

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