Helen Polley Labour Senator opinion piece in the Mercury 17 April 2023

Republishing this article for the purposes of archiving and referencing for public submissions.

Our World-leading salmon industry keeps on tipping aquaculture is vital to providing a sustainable global food supply, writes Helen Polley.

Tasmanian aquaculture, in particular the salmon industry, continues to be a world leader despite the concerns of a vocal minority.

I stand side-by-side with the many Tasmanians and their families who work in this proud industry.

Aquaculture provides more than 50 per cent of Australia's seafood and is acknowledged around the world as the fastest-growing food sector, with global production expected to double by 2030.

As an island we are so fortunate to have the pristine Southern Ocean on our doorstep. Sustainable aquaculture is fundamental in providing sustainable food supply for the entire world, and the Tasmanian seafood industry is now the most valuable industry across Australia.

Annually, the total gross catch is worth more than $1.075 million, and the total processed and packed value is worth more than $1.408 million.

Further to this, Tasmania really is the food bowl of the nation, with more than 80 per cent of seafood product sold domestically with the possibility for export expansion significant with favourable trading partners.

At current rates salmonid production is expected be worth more than $1 billion annually by 2030.

The aquaculture industry's economic contribution to Tasmania cannot be underestimated. Independent economic analysis shows that on average annual turnover or total value of industry production exceeds $1.2 billion.

Therefore, the economic impacts are great and we should all be very proud of these statistics.

From pretty humble beginnings more than 20 years ago, the Tasmanian salmon industry now generates 5200 Tasmanian jobs directly and indirectly. These are jobs in high need and most are full-time positions in regional areas.

The fact is this industry has the potential to support many more local families. Tasmania is blessed to have five large primary producers of high-quality fish: Huon Aquaculture, Tassal, Saltas, Van Diemen Aquaculture and Petuna.

The industry has had its critics, and some have tried to undermine and even destroy the industry. But it has been a resilient industry, going from strength to strength.

The fact is this industry is a world leader. The industry is known around the globe for having world's-best environmental practice and is regularly contacted by international companies for advice on sustainability measures. Independent inquiry has determined:

ENVIRONMENTAL concerns raised were not supported by expert advice and objective scientific data.

THE state government was overseeing a comprehensive and robust monitoring regimen.

Tasmania is known nationally and globally for its clean, green product, and we are proud as a state to produce such high-quality Atlantic salmon and ocean trout for people at home and abroad. Just as we are proud of our agriculture and viticulture industries.

Tasmania's brand power is second to none and we understand that aquaculture has the potential to significantly power our state's future economic growth.

The former state Labor government approved the expansion of salmon farming in Macquarie Harbour, and the former federal Labor government invested $7 million towards the Macquarie Harbour Aquaculture Hub – a project that is creating hundreds of jobs and growth in regional Tasmania.

Labor is very proud of our commitment to this industry.

I want to pay tribute to the well over 5000 Tasmanians who proudly rely on this industry.

The Australian Workers Union (AWU) has been steadfast in its support for the industry. But history has shown success cannot be taken for granted. If consumers lose faith in the product, and Tasmanians stop supporting fish farms and processing facilities in their communities, then the entire industry is at risk.

I support the AWU in its support of the salmon industry and the Tasmanian workforce. Tasmania is well-placed to capitalise on the growing demand for high-quality, sustainable fish, especially among the growing Asian middle class and new superpowers such as India. The export opportunities are endless.

It is projected that global seafood farming will need to more than double by 2030, by which time there will be another one billion human mouths to feed and fewer fish to be caught because of overfishing.

Meanwhile, Australians are eating more fish than ever: about 19kg per person per year, up from about 10kg in the 1960s.

The key to meeting this demand is being able to expand the industry in a sensible and sustainable way.

The credentials of the Tasmanian fishing industry couldn't be brighter:

Tasmania's salmon farmers are world leaders in sustainable practice.

Our industry produces clean, high-quality food, without the need to exploit our precious native fisheries.

Our world-class salmon farmers are among a very select few to have won accreditation from the Aquaculture Stewardship Council and WWF.

We know sustainable practice is critical to the security of our jobs and viability of our industry. Tasmania needs sustainable long-term jobs, and aquaculture can provide them. By supporting Tasmanian aquaculture, you are supporting local jobs, and giving young Tasmanians a future.

Helen Polley is a Labor senator for Tasmania.