Tasmanian environmental NGOs call out dodgy Government consultation on Maugean skate


Today, environmental NGOs (non-government organisations) around Tasmania are calling for action to protect the endangered Maugean skate and representation on the newly formed Maugean Skate Recovery Team. Despite there being a range of Tasmanian-based NGOs that focus on Tasmanian marine conservation, threatened species and the impacts of salmon farming, not even one was invited to participate in the process to date.

Industry lobby group, Salmon Tasmania, is part of the Recovery Team. If such a vested interest is allowed to be part of the decision-making, then so should Tasmanian groups who don't want to see a unique animal go extinct. We are highly critical of the Tasmanian and Australian governments' process that has excluded Tasmanian environmental NGOs.

The plight of the endangered Maugean skate, an ancient animal found only in Macquarie Harbour on Tasmania's west coast, was highlighted by a recent Institute of Antarctic and Marine Sciences report which found the population had declined by 47% between 2014-2021. The report called for urgent action to prevent the extinction of the species.

Australian Minister for Environment, Tanya Plibersek, in a letter to her Tasmanian counterpart, Roger Jaensch on May 25, blamed the unique species' plight on decreased oxygen levels in the water because of salmon farming and hydro schemes.

Key points:

  • After three days of meetings in July, the Recovery Team did not reach any decisions to take any actions to improve water quality in Macquarie Harbour.
  • No specific timeframes were agreed for the development of a strategy to protect the skate and there is no date set for when the Recovery Team will meet again.
  • Membership of the Recovery Team is purported to include representation from 'all stakeholder groups with an interest in Maugean skate conservation management' however the government's process did not include Tasmanian environmental NGOs.
  • The government did not run a process for nominating a representative of the conservation sector that included Tasmanian environmental NGOs.
  • Eleven Tasmanian environmental NGOs have come together to form the "Tasmanian Maugean skate Recovery Team" and issue recommendations that should be urgently implemented by Federal and State governments.

Tasmanian environmental NGOs call on the Australian Minister for Environment, Tanya Plibersek, to protect the Maugean skate by:

  1. Immediately up-list the Maugean skate from Endangered to Critically Endangered under the EPBC Act.
  2. Overturning the 2012 EPBC Act decision that allowed large-scale fish farming in Macquarie Harbour, based on the new evidence that has emerged since then.
  3. Immediately stopping all salmon and trout farming in Macquarie Harbour.

Tasmanian environmental NGOs call on the Tasmanian Government to protect the Maugean skate by:

  1. Immediately stopping all salmon and trout farming in Macquarie Harbour
  2. Refusing to renew marine farming and environmental licences when they expire on 30 November 2023
  3. Immediately ending recreational gillnet fishing in Macquarie Harbour, without exception.
  4. Requiring Hydro Tasmania to adjust hydroelectric dam releases to maximise dissolved oxygen recovery.

Tasmanian environmental NGOs call on both Australian and Tasmanian governments to invite Tasmanian environmental NGOs to participate in the Maugean Skate Recovery Team.

"We are critical of the Tasmanian and Australian governments' process that has excluded Tasmanian Environmental NGOs. While national environmental NGOs are included, we think that Tasmanian environmental groups should have been included in the process of nominating the representative of their sector, and they were not," said Alistair Allan, Antarctic and Marine campaigner at Bob Brown Foundation.

"With industry lobby group Salmon Tasmania firmly present at the table, previously stating on radio that the science is 'inconclusive' on what is causing the imminent extinction of the Maugean skate, there must be a representative from the Tasmanian environment movement to counter and expose the lengths industrial salmon companies and Salmon Tasmania will go to hide the truth."

"The science is not inconclusive. In fact, everybody on the Recovery Team is fully aware of, and in some cases conducted the science, that showed salmon farming was affecting the Maugean skate's survival."

"There is no need for a long drawn-out consultation when the science is already clear – fish farms must get out of Macquarie Harbour."

"I call on both Tanya Plibersek and Roger Jaensch to invite the Tasmanian environmental NGOs working on the Maugean skate's survival and marine environments to join the Recovery team."

"Reductions in fish biomass to date have not been enough – dissolved oxygen is not recovering. Clearly, we need to go much further. When fish are sent to market, pens should not be restocked. When environmental licenses run out on 30 November this year, they should not be renewed."

"The science is clear – the increase in fish farming in the harbour is linked to the drop in dissolved oxygen. We know this is harming the skate.

Signed by the following Tasmanian Environmental Groups

  • Tasmanian Alliance for Marine Protection
  • The Wilderness Society
  • Neighbours of Fish Farming
  • Tasman Peninsula Marine Protection
  • Northwest Tas for Clean Oceans
  • Surfrider Foundation
  • Tasmanian Conservation Trust
  • Sea Shepherd Australia
  • Grassroots Action Network Tasmania
  • Killora Community Association
  • Bob Brown Foundation