UN asks Albanese government about salmon farming damaging Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area


UNESCO has asked the Albanese government to answer claims that salmon farming in Macquarie Harbour is damaging the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. Environment groups wrote to UNESCO claiming that reduced water oxygen levels linked to fish farming were pushing the endangered Maugean skate to extinction. The Weekend Australian (paywalled) has confirmed that UNESCO has now taken up the issue with the Australian government, seeking a response to the concerns.

Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek is reviewing federal approval for aquaculture in the harbour. She has advice from the Threatened Species Scientific Committee that organic loads from salmon pens have a catastrophic impact on the Maugean skate.

The scientific committee in 2023 urged urgent action including to "eliminate or significantly reduce the impacts of Salmonid aquaculture on dissolved oxygen concentration . . . The fastest and simplest way to achieve this is by significantly reducing fish biomass and feeding rates," the committee advised.

Predictably, the salmon industry contests the advice, pointing to its commissioned scientific report that fish farms have minimal impact on the skate's environment. Salmon Tasmania chief executive Luke Martin said while it was natural UNESCO should be concerned about the skate, environment groups had provided a skewed view.

"We are very confident on the regulatory and science framework underpinning our operations in the Harbour, and that aquaculture is actually having a minimal impact on the natural environment of the skate."

Read the full report in The Weekend Australian, Saturday 27 April (paywalled).

NOFF adds that Mr Martin's view is completely contradicted by Richard Flanagan's well-researched recent analysis of the salmon industry's operations in Macquarie Harbour, and the ineffectiveness of the EPA's standards and regulation.