JOINT PRESS RELEASE
Environment Tasmania, Neighbours of Fish Farming (NOFF), Bob Brown Foundation, Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS), Sea Shepherd, Surfrider Foundation, Living Oceans Society, Tasmanian Conservation Trust, Tasmanian Alliance for Marine Protection (TAMP), Tasman Peninsula Marine Protection (TPMP), Killora Community Association, NW Tas for Clean Oceans.
A state- and nation-wide alliance of environmental and community groups has been joined by international organisations to demand an immediate halt to industrial salmon farms in Tasmania’s Macquarie Harbour.
This follows a report by marine scientists at the Institute of Marine & Antarctic Studies (IMAS) calling for urgent action to prevent the extinction of the endemic Maugean skate that has existed in the waterway since the time of the dinosaurs.
The population of the bottom-dwelling fish plummeted by 47% between 2017 and 2021, a period that clearly coincides with a catastrophic collapse of the harbour’s health and oxygen levels due to the salmon industry overstocking fish farms. The industry’s actions also damaged World Heritage areas of the waterway.
The scientists note the harbour is still struggling to recover.
The alliance says “urgent action” should not be interpreted by the government or salmon industry as a need for further investigation.
“There are two major factors driving the Maugean towards extinction,” said Peter George of NOFF. “One is climate change which requires action over years. The other is the salmon industry. That one can be stopped overnight.
The alliance has called on the government for an immediate removal of the industry in the harbour by de-stocking the salmon cages and then removing them.
It has also called on Federal Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek to intervene unless the Tasmanian government acts immediately.
“The Maugean Skate was listed as a “PRIORITY” species under Minister Plibersek’s pledge of no more extinctions under her government - and this is her first, urgent test and one that can be easily achieved” said the Alistair Allan from the Bob Brown Foundation.
“The Maugean Skate is suffocating due to low dissolved oxygen levels. Removing fish farms will play a huge role in fixing those levels.”
STATEMENT BY ENVIRONMENT TASMANIA:
The latest IMAS report shows us just how dire the situation is for the Maugean skate, and without drastic action Tasmania will have the grim record of the second bony fish extinction in the world on its record, after the Smooth handfish. Not only would the extinction of the Maugean skate be an absolute tragedy for Tasmania, but it would also be an embarrassment for federal environment minister Tania Plybersek who pledged zero extinctions on her watch.
The presence of the salmon industry has contributed to reduced oxygen levels in Macquarie Harbour pushing the especies to the brink of extinction. This is compounded by warming waters and the only solution is to rest Macquarie Harbour of salmon pens to allow the iconic species to recover.
The responses from the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) and the Department of Natural Resources and Environment Tasmania (NRET) to the IMAS report do not go nearly far enough. Reducing the feed allowance of salmon farms in Macquarie Harbour by just 10% and forming working groups is too little too late. This is not decisive action to ensure the survival of an endangered species. This is yet another example of the Tasmanian government pandering to big business.
Environment Tasmania endorse the application of the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) and Humane Society International Australia to have the Maugean skate upgraded from endangered to critically endangered. We urge the Tasmanian government and Ms Plybersek to make bold decisions to ensure the survival of this iconic and ancient species.