Labor’s First Extinction: Tasmanian EPA excoriated for failures in Macquarie Harbour


A comprehensive investigation into the Tasmanian government's failures to rein-in the Atlantic salmon industry in Macquarie Harbour and protect from extinction the 60-million-year-old Maugean skate is out on the newsstands around Australia today as the cover story in The Monthly.

The damming, highly detailed report, 'Labor's First Extinction', is published in the Monthly by Richard Flanagan, whose journalism is also published internationally in the world's leading newspapers (New York Times, Le Monde, La Republicca, The Times). 

He contends the Tasmanian government and its EPA have been complicit for over a decade in allowing the salmon industry to constantly produce salmon at levels far in excess of what it knew for over a decade to be safe and sustainable for Macquarie Harbour, the World Heritage Area and the Maugean skate, all of which it had responsibilities to protect under both its own legislation and the Federal government's EPBC act, and all of which it failed to do again and again.

NOFF has contacted every Federal member of Parliament seeking their assistance in urging Federal Environment minister, Tanya Plibersek, to act on the advice of her scientific advisors and urgently remove salmon feedlots from Macquarie Harbour. This morning, copies of Mr Flanagan's investigation and other published reports from The Mercury and The Australian are on their desks.

NOFF contends The Monthly report clearly shows the EPA is not fit for purpose, protects the interests of the foreign corporations who own the salmon industry and permits the degradation of Tasmania's marine life and waterways.

What's in The Monthly?

A Booker Prize winner, Mr Flanagan's 9,000-word report is the outcome of months of meticulous research and interviews that denounces the EPA for complicity in permitting the industry to continue stocking the waterway at unsustainable levels.

Examining more than a decade of evidence since the industry began expanding in Macquarie Harbour, Flanagan writes, "to hide the truth of collapsing oxygen levels in the water, even the tools of [the EPA's] monitoring were co-opted to serve the lies of an industry that knew it was damaging Macquarie Harbour."

Flanagan questions why Federal Environment Minister, Tanya Plibersek, has failed to act when scientists in her own department have advised urgent destocking of Macquarie Harbour in light of her promise of "no extinctions" on her watch.

"The Maugean skate is to be the first species in history to be researched into extinction," Flanagan writes.

The Monthly's report is part of a rapidly growing crisis for the salmon industry and the Federal government, coming on the back of two eminent marine authorities writing in The Mercury (Hobart) on Thursday (April 25, 2024, not available online) calling for the "total removal" of salmon feedlots to prevent the skate's extinction.

"The current aquaculture activities in Macquarie Harbour are unsustainable," they write.

The UN through UNESCO has now become involved, raising its concerns about Macquarie Harbour with the Federal Government over World Heritage regulations. (As reported in The Weekend Australian)

  • MEDIA RELEASE/ALERT April 26, 2024. More information and interviews: Peter George: 0426 150 369