Have YOUR say in the Federal review of salmon farming in Macquarie Harbour (now closed)


Federal Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek announced a review of the 1999 decision to allow marine farming operations in Macquarie Harbour. Public consultation closed on Friday 2 February 2024.

The Australia Institute and Equity Generation Lawyers wrote to the Environment Minister in June 2023 with new scientific evidence showing the endangered Maugean skate, a ray-like animal, is at risk of extinction in Macquarie Harbour, due in large part to salmon farming, and requesting a reconsideration of the original Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) decision that allowed marine farming operations in Macquarie Harbour.

The Australia Institute prepared some helpful information for you:
  • The Maugean skate is listed as Endangered under both state and federal legislation and is found only in Macquarie Harbour. One third of Macquarie Harbour is within the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area and the skate is one of the values of the World Heritage Area. Australia's Threatened Species Scientific Committee has recommended increasing the threat level faced by the skate from endangered to critically endangered.
  • In May 2023, Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS) scientists interrupted a Maugean skate monitoring program to call for urgent conservation action, after finding the population of skate has rapidly declined by almost half since 2014. Of particular concern is that they found very few juveniles coming through to keep the population viable.
  • The decision to greenlight expanded marine farming operations was made more than a decade ago under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act, on the grounds the operations would not significantly impact the species.
  • The IMAS report and other research published since this decision (summarised in our letter), confirms fish farms are having a significant impact on the Maugean skate. Fish farming is having the most detrimental impact on dissolved oxygen in the water, pushing the Maugean skate towards extinction due to lack of oxygen. Macquarie Harbour has unusual hydrodynamics, and the regulation of hydro-electric dam releases is a secondary concern because it can prevent natural reoxygenation. Gillnetting, extreme weather and climate change are adding to the threats, but the primary problem is the lack of oxygen caused by pollution from fish farming.
  • The Conservation Advice for the Maugean skate, clearly identifies fish farming in Macquarie harbour as causing the main impact on the endangered Maugean skate. It says that the highest priority conservation action is to "eliminate or significantly reduce the impacts of salmonid aquaculture on dissolved oxygen concentrations", and that the fastest and simplest way to achieve this is to significantly reduce fish biomass - an urgent priority to be actioned before this summer (2023-24).

(source: The Australia Institute)

To which NOFF also points out that industry proposals to re-oxygenate the water in Macquarie Harbour are disingenuous at best: this may assist the skate, but will also help farmed salmon better survive the adverse impacts of ocean warming. What sounds like industry generosity turns out to be yet another taxpayer subsidy.