Environment Tasmania was the first environmental group to campaign about the problems associated with the Tasmanian salmon farming industry. Today, due to our work and fellow allies, the industry struggles to hold a social licence; a record-breaking number of Tasmanians oppose the industry; seafood shoppers are demanding supermarkets take action; and a resistance of local community and global environmental groups has emerged.
Environment Tasmania’s work on salmon farming helped to initiate the ABC’s Four Corners, groundbreaking investigation, “Big Fish”. This was the first time the issue of the salmon industry was brought to the attention of a wider Australian audience. Simultaneously, Senator Peter Whish-Wilson pushed for a Senate Inquiry into the salmon industry. A peer-reviewed study found that both the ABC Four Corners program and the Senate inquiry caused a 268 per cent increase in media attention on salmon farming.
We, alongside allies, held the government to account for reckless expansion and scandalous mismanagement. Our grassroots activism and media exposes resulted in the government halving the size of Tassal’s expansion on Tasmania’s east coast, preventing its encroachment into the Mercury Passage adjacent to Maria Island Marine Reserve and a significant reduction in the total tonnage of salmon produced in Macquarie Harbour. We worked with fishers to have the government end the shameful seal relocation program.
We also held those endorsing the industry to account. As a result Tassal’s Macquarie Harbour operations were de-certified, from the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) Certification scheme. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) ceased their partnership with Tassal, and superfund Australian Ethical divested in the salmon industry. Giant supermarkets, Coles and Woolworths, were put on notice by over 40,000 shoppers demanding better labelling on farmed salmon.
The work by Environment Tasmania and other groups was a major factor in the establishment of a Legislative Council Inquiry into the industry. The Inquiry received many submissions, with a majority concerned about the negative impacts caused by salmon farms. In 2022, the final report was published. It contained recommendations relating to how the industry should be regulated to overcome the problems that Environment Tasmania and others identified. Most of these recommendations have yet to be instated, including the critically important Recommendation 3: “...to reduce inshore fin fish farming sites, with priority given to ceasing operations in sensitive, sheltered and biodiverse areas.”