Submission in response to Draft Tasmanian Salmon Industry Plan
29th Dec 2022
Environment Tasmania welcomes the opportunity to comment on the Department of Natural Resources and Environment Tasmania (NRET)’s Draft Tasmanian Salmon Industry Plan.
We note that several high profile marine stakeholders including environmental organisations and coastal community groups have decided to boycott the consultation process of the Salmon Industry Plan. This speaks to a complete loss of trust in the process of public consultation with regards to the expansion of the salmon industry. This is echoed in the Legislative Council Salmon Inquiry Final Report which states that their evidence “demonstrated a general community disquiet and discontent at the lack of opportunity for community input regarding the place of the Industry in our state’s shared environment, local communities and economic profile. While Government progresses plans for expansion of fin fish farming, it is apparent community confidence in the regulation of the industry is reducing.”1
While we welcome this review process, we are extremely concerned that the Tasmanian government has clearly positioned itself as unequivocally supportive of massive expansion of salmon industry without pause. The draft plan reads like a glossy promotional brochure for the industry, which does not inspire confidence that any stakeholder input with concerns or calling for a pause in expansion will be seriously considered.
Furthermore we believe the consultation period to be ill-timed and too short. Eight weeks of consultation over the Christmas holiday period does not give the community adequate time to absorb the information and make their submissions. We urge the government to extend the deadline for submissions for an extra four weeks to 17th February 2023.
The Discussion Paper notes the Government’s aspiration for the salmon farming industry to
continue “to strive to be sustainable, resilient and innovative” and a Vision of “A sustainable industry into the future that all Tasmanians can be proud of…”. We argue that the industry has been operating in a way that has been far from sustainable from the start and that it is clear that there is a large section of the Tasmanian community who are not proud of this industry in it’s current form. 89% of submissions made to the Legislative Council Salmon Inquiry were “voicing concerns” with the current operations of the salmon industry8.
If community consultation is treated like a box-ticking exercise lacking meaningful engagement, and there is clear government support for continual rapid expansion of the salmon industry, then this will continue to be the case.
Environment Tasmania is not anti-aquaculture. We support aquaculture that is environmentally responsible and benefits all Tasmanians. But in its current form, we firmly believe the Tasmanian salmon industry is not environmentally sustainable and is detrimental to coastal communities. We support the transition of all salmon pens from Tasmanian state waters to sustainable on-shore operations in Recirculated Aquaculture Systems (RAS) that will continue to support industry jobs and the economy. This must also include the transition of all flow—through hatcheries to fully RAS. Radical reform is needed to ensure that all operations are genuinely transparent, and that the regulatory framework is based on independent science, to protect the environment, community and consumers.
To truly have a plan for ALL TASMANIANS, not just the CEOs and shareholders of large salmon companies, Environment Tasmania makes the following recommendations:
Reinstate the moratorium on new salmon leases, and expand to include no increase of biomass in any lease, no expansion of current leases and no swapping of zombie leases for new ones, until all recommendations of the Legislative Council salmon inquiry report are fully integrated and a regulatory Marine Plan implemented.
Fully implement all 68 recommendations of the Legislative Council salmon inquiry report, paying urgent attention to Recommendation 3 – Develop a plan, in consultation with industry, scientific and community stakeholders, to reduce inshore fin fish farming sites, with priority given to ceasing operations in sensitive, sheltered and biodiverse areas.1
Commence a time-bound transition to land-based Recirculating Aquaculture System (RAS) salmon farming. Principle 2 of the Draft Tasmanian Salmon Industry Plan states “Innovation – future growth lies in land-based and offshore salmon farming” reflects the Priority Outcome I: Sustainable Industry, but there is no clear time-bound transition outlined. This must include transition of flow-through hatcheries to fully enclosed RAS hatcheries.
Community voice in marine planning decisions, including Traditional Owners of Tasmania, through a process of Co-design as in Victoria3,4 and that upholds UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP) by obtaining free, prior and informed consent (FPIC).
Radical reform of Tasmania’s marine planning process, marine laws and Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) with the Tasmanian government implementing a comprehensive Marine Plan using Marine Spatial Planning and Integrated Ocean Management for all marine planning decisions, keeping marine ecosystem health the central priority in any marine development.5
Below we will expand on each recommendation:
1. Reinstate the moratorium on new salmon leases, and expand to include no increase of biomass in any lease, no expansion of current leases and no swapping of zombie leases for new ones.
The 12-month moratorium announced in September 2021 was ineffective for a few reasons. The remit stated that “There will be no net increase in leased farming areas in Tasmanian waters”6. This left open the possibility for a zombie-lease, a disused, historic salmon lease, to be swapped for a new lease without a net increase in the area farmed. Another short-fall was that there are already 983 hectares of marine farming leases approved in Storm Bay for all three salmon companies. Effectively, if these leases were operating at their full capacity producing 80,000 tonnes per annum, the industry would be able to double its total statewide production to 135,000 tonnes per annum. The polluting nitrogen output from this level of operation around the state would be the equivalent to the sewage from 4 million people, or 9 times the population of Tasmania. All this would be possible while a moratorium still in place.7
We recommend the reinstating of a moratorium, this time to include no new leases, no increase in biomass in any one lease and no swapping of zombie leases for new leases, until all recommendations of the Legislative Council salmon inquiry report are fully integrated and a Marine Plan, informed by a comprehensive marine spatial planning exercise, is implemented.
2. Fully implement all 68 recommendations of the Legislative Council salmon inquiry report with urgent attention paid to Recommendation 3 – Develop a plan, in consultation with industry, scientific and community stakeholders, to reduce inshore fin fish farming sites, with priority given to ceasing operations in sensitive, sheltered and biodiverse areas.1
While we are encouraged that the Government supports (either in full or in principle) the majority of the Inquiry Report recommendations, it is clear that much more work needs to be done.
Tasmania has some of the most biodiverse and unique marine life anywhere in the world. Our shallow and sheltered bays are home to some of the world’s rarest fish and species found only in Tasmania. These waters are prone to low flushing, and vulnerable to nutrient build-up. They are also often favoured regions for Tasmanians for recreation for example diving, boating, swimming, snorkelling and fishing. These vulnerable and sensitive areas have been highlighted by the Legislative Council salmon inquiry special committee as areas to be prioritised for the removal of salmon pens. We recommend that this be carried out with some urgency and this would include Long Bay, Macquarie Harbour, the D’entrecasteaux Channel and Huon River.
3. Time-bound transition to land-based RAS salmon farming.
The Draft plan’s Priority Outcome 1 description and “Strategic Pathways” fail to adequately support land-based production - despite stating this is where “future growth lies” in Principle 2. There is also an assumption that land-based operations will be utilised alongside marine production systems: “support efficient land-based production through increasing use of industry best practice technology and which integrate with marine production systems”). This seems to be referring to expanding the capacity for hatcheries and growing out larger smolt on-land, which is very different to transitioning all sea-pens onto land. There is strong support by Salmon Plan consultation submissions for this transition and this must include transition of flow-through hatcheries to fully enclosed RAS hatcheries. Successful large-scale, land-based RAS are set to replace sea pen production in other parts of the world. This transition is reflected in the popularity of this technology with investors. The Tasmanian Salmon Industry Plan must include a time-bound plan for transition to land-based RAS.
4. Community voice in marine planning decisions, including Traditional Owners of Tasmania, through a process of Co-design as used in Victoria3,4 and that upholds UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP) by obtaining free, prior and informed consent (FPIC).
The community consultation process with regards to the salmon industry marine farming developments has failed to adequately incorporate community feedback and quell feelings of discontent from the community. The salmon inquiry report states “community disquiet and discontent has been growing and there is a general feeling of lack of opportunity for meaningful community input”1. We recommend a complete overall of this process for all marine planning to the Co-design system used in Victoria which “brings citizens and stakeholders together to design new products, services and policies”.3 Victoria has used Co-design for several planning processes including marine planning. It is upheld as an ‘inclusive’, ‘transparent’ and ‘respectful’ process through which stakeholders (including representatives from the community) felt their input was valued and meaningful.4
The Draft Salmon Plan states that one of the strategies is to “Improve public understanding of salmon aquaculture operations and impacts through proactive engagement and communication”. Here at Environment Tasmania we believe that the issue lies not with there being a lack understanding of the benefits of the salmon industry to the community, but in the community feeling unheard and that their input has no impact or worth. Tasmania’s oceans and coasts hold extremely high value for the Tasmanian community, not to mention are held in the public commons. For marine developments, the Tasmanian public need to be actively involved in decision-making.
A lot of work must be done for community trust to be regained by the government and we recommend a complete reform of the consultation process and adoption of a Co-design process for all marine planning.
The UN Declaration on the Right of Indigenous People (UNDRIP), to which Australia is a signatory, expresses that governments must obtain free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) to approving industry projects within their traditional lands and seas. We endorse seeking consent from Tasmania’s Traditional Owners and recommend the Tasmanian government uphold our responsibility to UNDRIP.
5. Radical reform of Tasmania’s marine planning process, marine laws and Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) with the Tasmanian government implementing a comprehensive Marine Plan using Marine Spatial Planning and Integrated Ocean Management for all marine planning decisions, maintaining marine ecosystem health as the ultimate priority.
The Legislative Council Salmon Inquiry Report found that a comprehensive marine spatial planning process was not undertaken to identify areas suitable for sustainable industry growth for the Salmon Industry Growth Plan.1
We fully endorse the following statement from the submission to the Draft Salmon Plan of the Environment Defenders Office (EDO):
“The Government response to the Inquiry Report refers to IMAS’s Statewide Finfish Aquaculture Spatial Planning Exercise: Investigating growth opportunities for finfish aquaculture in Tasmanian coastal waters, in response to the recommendation that a marine spatial planning exercise be the basis for any salmon industry plan. However, that planning exercise was limited in scope. It was a “sector-based” planning exercise to provide for “growth opportunities for finfish aquaculture in Tasmania using existing information” rather than for a holistic spatial planning process to assist in the assessment of the environmental, social and recreational values of lutruwita/Tasmania’s marine areas and the development of sustainable and evidence-based growth targets as called for in the Inquiry Report. Furthermore, that spatial planning exercise:
• Did not involve fulsome public consultation;
• Failed to account for “environmental change” such as climate change;
• Failed to consider Aboriginal cultural heritage values in the seascape and resources;
• Relied on limited and out-of-date data on foreshore uses;
• Relied on limited data on the intensity and distribution of recreational uses and for the
environmental conditions at the sites considered;
• Did not provide a detailed review of threatened species in the areas identified as suitable
for salmon farming; and,
• Did not consider any deep-sea floor mapping (which is surprising given the proposal to
A comprehensive marine spatial planning process informed by the best available science, public consultation and engagement, should underpin an integrated and ecosystems-based management framework for Tasmania. A sector-based approach is piecemeal and does not allow for proper consideration of all risks to Tasmania’s natural values and amenities. We recommend complete reform of Tasmania’s marine planning processes and marine laws. We encourage the Tasmanian government to implement a comprehensive Marine Plan using Marine Spatial Planning and Integrated Ocean Management for all marine planning decisions, maintaining marine ecosystem health the ultimate priority.
Tasmania’s oceans are a dynamic series of connected ecosystems, home to some of the most diverse and unique marine life on earth, and utilised by an array of industry sectors and recreational groups. This complexity calls for a holistic management approach to ensure we safeguard the health and vibrancy of our oceans for generations to come. In Tasmania our piecemeal approach to management and marine legislation is problematic. An example of this is the disconnect between the review processes of the Living Marine Resources Management Act, the Salmon Draft Plan and the impending review of the Marine Farming Development Act. We recommend one management framework in the form of a Marine Plan, and an overarching single Act, such as the Marine and Coastal Act in Victoria.
Despite the Tasmanian government announcing in 2021 that there would be progress made towards creating a more independent Environmental Protection Authority, it is not clear how this changes the status quo. There are many elements that remain the same, for example the Board, the Director and many of the systems. We recommend a review of the EPA and radical reform.
Senior Marine Campaigner
1. Legislative Council Government Adminstrative Committee ‘A’, Report on Fin-Fish Farming in Tasmania, 2022.
2. Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) Submission in Response to Discussion Paper Towards a 10-year Salmon Plan, 2022
4. Biodiversity Response Planning, Co-design Overview Report https://www.environment.vic.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0018/119214/BRP-Co-Design-Overview-Report.pdf
5. Towards a Sustainable Marine Management Regime; an update on Tasmanian progress; The, Australia Institute, 2020.
7. SUBMISSION TO: LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL GOVERNMENT ADMINISTRATION COMMITTEE 'A' INQUIRY INTO PLANNING, ASSESSMENT, OPERATION AND REGULATION OF FIN FISH FARMING IN TASMANIA. Prepared by: Christine Coughanowr, MSc, BSc 27 November 2019