Tasmanian salmon industry: few jobs, less tax


New research released by The Australia Institute today highlights the modest jobs numbers and tax payments by the Tasmanian salmon industry.

Pressure is mounting on governments and regulators to restrict salmon farming operations due to their impact on waterways and endangered species like the Maugean skate.

Key points:

  • Australian Bureau of Statistics data suggests that between 1,100 and 1,700 people work in the Tasmanian salmon industry, less than 1% of jobs in the state
  • Over 80% of salmon industry jobs are in Hobart and the South East, with just 11% of salmon industry jobs in the Macquarie Harbour area
  • Census data for employment on Tasmania's west coast shows that likely employment in the salmon industry is 54 and the best-case employment is 76. This equates to 2.5-3.6% of total employment in the area
  • Australian Tax Office data shows that the three main salmon companies sold over $7 billion worth of fish but paid just $51 million in corporate tax over the last nine years
  • Salmon farming operations appear to have paid zero tax in the last three years for which data is available

"The industry's references to '1 in 2' or '1 in 3 full time jobs [being] linked to salmon' on the west coast is misleading and deceptive. Census data is the best available employment data and it shows at best, the industry is responsible for 3.6% of employment in the area," said Eloise Carr, Director, Australia Institute Tasmania.

"All jobs are important, especially in regional communities, and workers should be supported to transition to sustainable employment. But the government needs to be making decisions based on fact, not fiction. The salmon industry has been warned by scientist there are problems with fish farming in Macquarie Harbour for over a decade, what have they done to prepare their workforce for this inevitable situation?"
"The industry that claims it's the biggest fish in the state actually doesn't pay its way," said Eloise Carr, Director, the Australia Institute Tasmania. "Over 99% of Tasmanians do not work in the salmon industry. Of the Tasmanians who do work in the salmon industry, most jobs are located near Hobart, not out on the West Coast.
"I think most Tasmanians would be shocked to find that they pay more tax in GST every time they go to the supermarket than the salmon industry paid in the last three years. Data from Australian Government agencies shows that the salmon industry could be restructured to create a sustainable industry without significant impact on employment or government revenues.
"The Tasmanian salmon industry never misses an opportunity to promote its economic claims, but one word is rarely mentioned – tax. The salmon industry's economic claims are always focus on the big dollar figures of sales revenue. But how much actually goes back to the Tasmanian public? Near zero.
"That's a big problem for an industry that imposes significant costs on the public and the environment.
"The industry is also trying to mislead Tasmanians about the science. The science is clear: salmon operations affect water quality in many coastal habitats and are primarily responsible for severe oxygen depletion in Macquarie Harbour, one-third of which is World Heritage listed. It looks likely to cause the extinction of the Gondwana-era Maugean skate – an outstanding universal value of the World Heritage Area. But who is paying for that? Not the companies, apparently."
"Taxpayers have been subsiding this industry and its administrative and scientific burden for too long. But now that we have that science, we should at least listen to it. The industry is trying to denigrate the science labelling it 'activist' claims. It is not. It is Australian Government scientists, the Australian Government, and Institute of Marine and Antarctic Studies scientists who have made these findings and recommended management responses," said Ms Carr.
"The industry is using indirect employment to exaggerate its importance. This approach has been criticised by both the ABS and the Productivity Commission as being unrealistic, particularly in small regional economies, such as Tasmania's west coast. But even if you were to use that flawed approach, by doubling direct employment, 7% is not 17%, or 33% or 50%, all of which have been claimed by the industries lobby group at different times. That's orders of magnitude in difference," said Rod Campbell, Research Director, The Australia Institute.

Read the full report