Time and oxygen running short for Maugean Skate

The Launceston Examiner reports that a trial to help save the Maugean Skate from extinction is yet to secure all the funds needed, only a month before work is scheduled to begin.

Tasmania's salmon industry in September said it would partner with Australia's fisheries research body in a major initiative to artificially boost oxygen levels in Macquarie Harbour.

Macquarie harbour is the only place where the skate still exists, threatened by poor water quality associated mostly with salmon farming.

Recently the federal government's independent Threatened Species Scientific Committee called for urgent action before summer to ensure the species survives. It said salmon farming was the most important anthropogenic contributor to the oxygen shortage and the fastest way to address those impacts was to significantly slash the amount of fish being farmed and fed in the harbour.

The salmon industry has refused to reduce fish numbers, saying there's no evidence it will fix the harbour's problem. Instead it announced a $6 million to $7 million trial to suck up water, inject it with oxygen and release it into deep sections of the harbour.

Salmon Tasmania chief executive Luke Martin has told AAP the industry will provide just over half the cash and he anticipates the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (FRDC), funded by taxpayers and fishing industry contributions, will provide the rest.

But the FRDC apparently is yet to receive a formal application for funding, but one is expected. They expect to consider the matter at a board meeting towards the end of this month. The proposal will first have to go to international and domestic experts for peer review, and to key stakeholders including the recovery team for the skate.

But Greens senator Peter Whish-Wilson says taxpayers shouldn't be footing the bill.

"Surely the industry would have had to do this anyway – in a polluted waterway of their own making – even without a critically endangered animal in the harbour? It simply looks like a taxpayer subsidy to improve cost effective salmon farming. The industry should accept the government's expert conservation advice and remove their industrial salmon farms from the harbour, giving the skate the best possible chance to avoid extinction."

NOFF adds that oxygenating the water will assist farmed salmon to withstand the effects of rising ocean temperatures, so the industry stands to benefit as well as the Skate.