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Planet needs salmon, says WWF

Edition 180_Salmon cages in south-east Tasmania

World Wildlife Fund Australia (WWF) has called on Australians to appreciate the merits of Tasmania's salmon industry, saying aquaculture is needed to save wild fisheries and feed a growing global population.

And The Australian newspaper has backed the WWF, reporting: "Opponents of salmon farming seek to paint it as 'the next forestry' with connotations of devastated environments, regulatory failure and industry over-reach.

"What it does undoubtedly represent is a golden opportunity for Tasmania to demonstrate a new maturity, to show it is capable of fostering new industries without trashing its hard-won brand."

WWF urged Australians to consider the broader benefits of expanding aquaculture, warning that without it the world would fail to sustainably feed a global population of 9.7 billion expected by 2050.

Chief Executive, Dermot O’Gorman, told Matthew Denholm of The Australian: “We’ve identified food production and agriculture expansion as one of the biggest threats to wildlife, landscapes and habitats.

"That’s why we are committed to finding a solution of how to produce food more sustainably.

“If we do it under the current business model, there is not the land space or the water space … the numbers don’t add up.”

Mr O’Gorman said about 30 per cent of the world’s wild fisheries were over­fished and 60 per cent of the remainder were being fished to maximum sustainable levels.

"We are projected to need another 31 million tonnes of seafood over the next decade," Mr O'Gorman said. "Aquaculture [will] have to play an important part.”

The gross value of all Australian fisheries increased by 12 per cent to $2.8 billion in 2014-15, according to recently released statistics from the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics (ABARES).

While a wild rock lobster boom was a key driver of this value growth, the ABARES report revealed that the aquaculture sector was becoming increasingly important, largely as a result of increased Tasmanian salmonid production.

It said salmonids accounted for 53 per cent of the total value of national aquaculture production.

Tasmania has the largest share of any State or Territory of the gross value of fisheries production, at 30 per cent.

Denholm reported in a separate article in The Australian that salmon was replacing tuna as the fish of choice for home consumption and was seriously denting Australians' reputations as rabid red meat eaters.

"Tasmanian salmon — fresh vibrantly coloured, plucked from the pristine waters of the Island State and chock-full of omega 3 — is a naturally attractive option and one an increasing number of us are finding hard to resist," he wrote.

"Already the average family of four consumes almost 10kg of salmon a year and demand for the product is growing: sales are rising by $100 million a year — $2 million a week."

Denholm said the success of the salmon industry was a riposte to critics of Tasmania.

"With home-grown know-how and vision, [Tasmanians] built the largest fishery by value in the country, worth $720 million a year and directly employing more than 2,000 — indirectly thousands more.

"It is Tasmania’s largest agribusiness."

In January, the Australian Workers Union organised a rally in Hobart in support of the industry and drew representatives of both the Government and Opposition.

Denholm wrote in The Australian that the industry had demonstrated an ability to adapt, improving pen design and cleaning methods, adjusting fish stocks and working with external auditors to gain top-flight environmental accreditation.

Tassal and Petuna have highly respected Aquaculture Stewardship Council accreditation across their entire operations, while Huon Aquaculture is working towards it.

“Tasmania will then be the first salmon aquaculture industry to get close to 100 per cent certification; that’s a great achievement,” Mr O’Gorman told Denholm.

Denholm's earlier article had references to key issues raised in a highly critical Four Corners television report on the industry.

But the article seemed to be guiding the public debate towards a more balanced and moderate viewpoint.

If you didn't know the history of similar arguments in Tasmania you might even be encouraged.

Footnote: Events in the industry in February included a directive to Tassal from the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) to remove all fish from its Franklin lease in Macquarie Harbour by the end of the month. The lease was subject to 14 non-compliance issues identified in an underwater survey in September. The EPA's action followed quickly on Huon Aquaculture announcing an appeal in the Supreme Court against a ruling by the EPA and the Minister of Primary Industries that the harbour could safely stock 14,000 tonnes of salmon. Huon wants the limit reduced, but the Government will oppose the appeal. Neither Tassal nor Petuna, the other Macquarie Harbour salmon producers, have joined Huon's action.


8 February 2017, Edition 180

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Tasmania's Stories Edition 188

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