On the eve of an Institute of Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS) hosted conference on the future of salmon farming in Australia, Tasmania's peak environment group has released a report card rating Australia’s big three salmon companies take-up of new technologies. Given the biosecurity threats and physical constraints on growth that are hampering expansion in traditional net pen production systems, investment in new technology is the best indication of future growth potential for Australia's largest fisheries companies.
“Our assessment unfortunately found no investment from Australia’s top salmon companies in fully land-based Recirculating Aquaculture Systems (RAS) or semi-closed and closed containment systems in the ocean,” says Laura Kelly, Strategy Director at Environment Tasmania.
“While it is true that fully land based systems don’t currently produce at a commercial tonnage, DNB, Norway’s largest bank, has forecast that 150 kilotons will come from fully land based systems by 2020. Fresh off a successful IPO, Norwegian company, Atlantic Sapphire, is currently building the first commercial scale RAS in Miami, Florida, to deliver market sized salmon at a premium price by 2019.”
There is some investment in high wave energy production and extended land based production for post-smolt in Tasmania, captured in the table below.
“Huon Aquaculture is the only Tasmanian company with current high wave energy sites in operation and an investment in RAS for post-smolt to reduce the amount of time fish spend at sea,” Ms Kelly says.
Tassal has made a commitment to joining Huon in investing in high wave energy production in Storm Bay but has no active sites. Neither Tassal nor Petuna have committed to RAS for post-smolt.
According to Environment Tasmania, policy and subsidies supporting development of new technology have been crucial to delivering innovation in competitor nations like Norway.
“With no end in sight for biosecurity threats and physical constraints on near-shore growth, innovation and change in global salmon farming is inevitable. It is concerning that the Tasmanian Government has failed to match competitor nations with a clear vision for investment in new technology.”
“In fact, the Government’s failure to regulate even traditional net pen systems to avoid biosecurity threats and environmental damage is increasing risks within the Tasmanian industry,” Ms Kelly says.