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Senators give salmon a tick

Edition156 Tassal Fish farm Macquarie harbour

August was a good month for the Tasmanian salmon industry as a Senate inquiry found environmental claims against it to be unsubstantiated and the sector’s biggest player, Tassal Ltd, achieved national recognition for sustainability and innovation, while reporting a 14.8 per cent jump in annual profit.

The Senate inquiry initiated in March by Tasmanian Greens Senator, Peter Whish-Wilson, delivered a 160-page report that found the industry to be adequately regulated.

The report said the State Government was overseeing a comprehensive and robust monitoring regime and the way was clear for significant planned industry expansion.

The Chair of the Senate’s Environment and Communications References Committee, Anne Urquhart (Labor), said in a statement that environmental concerns that had been raised had not been backed up by expert evidence or scientific data.

“The industry is known around the world for having world’s best environmental practice and is regularly contacted by international companies for advice on sustainability measures,” Senator Urquhart said.

“There is still much misinformation circulating which could potentially be very damaging to an industry which injects $500 million into the economy and supports more than 5,000 direct and indirect jobs.”

A disconnect between attitudes about the industry and objective scientific findings meant that salmon producers needed to do more to communicate about their activities, she said.

“The evidence provided to the committee about the impacts of the industry in no way justifies extra bureaucratic measures or more onerous regulation,” Senator Urquhart said.

The report recommended the Tasmanian Government help make environmental information and data relating to the industry more widely available.

It also said the Government should consider amending the Marine Farming Planning Act 1995 to make it mandatory for the Marine Farming Planning Review Panel to hold public hearings.

The inquiry recommended the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and the Environment (DPIPWE) be provided with resources needed to do planning, monitoring and compliance of the primary industry sector.

Senator Whish-Wilson issued a dissenting report with 24 recommendations including the establishment of an independent regulator.

Senator Whish-Wilson said: “We felt that … DPIPWE, on one hand is the industry champion and on the other hand is the industry regulator.”

He described this situation as “a total conflict of interest" and said the industry needed to be regulated by an external agency such as the Environmental Protection Agency.

The Premier, Will Hodgman, said the Government would consider the report’s three recommendations.

“The strongly negative dissenting report from the Greens is not unexpected and confirms our view that the Greens only proposed this inquiry … in order to try to demonise the industry,” Mr Hodgman said.

The Chief Executive of the Tasmanian Salmonid Growers Association, Dr Adam Main, said the inquiry had been a good way to showcase the good work being done by the aquaculture industry in Tasmania.

Days before the report was released, Tassal was recognised at the Australian Business Awards for its commitment to sustainable business practices.

Tassal’s Head of Sustainability, Linda Sams, said: “It’s a really exciting award to win. It’s an internationally benchmarked award on sustainability leadership in organisations.”

Tassal is the first Australian salmon producer to win the award.

“It may be a first for a primary food producer,” Ms Sams said. “It’s really exciting for us and we go on to the international round now.”

The award recognised work done by Tassal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, electricity and water use and the company’s achievement of Aquaculture Stewardship Council certification.

“What it does show is that we really are committed to getting this right and to doing it well in Tasmania, and we really support transparency and third-party audits and actually tackling the tough environmental questions,” Ms Sams said.

The company won further acclaim when a bright idea by two employees scored it a place in the BRW 50 Most Innovative Companies 2015 list.

A new hydraulic pumping system used on the company’s 28 vessels convinced the judges.

Developed by Marine Maintenance Projects Manager, Hamish Harper, and Special Projects Operations Manager, Chris Coad, the system improved productivity and employee well-being by replacing a noisy system that had previously taken up valuable deck space and created potential hazards on the vessels.

To cap off a good month, Tassal reported a 14.8 per cent rise in operating profits to $49.99 million for 2014-15.

The group’s revenue increased 16.2 per cent to $309.8 million and operating earnings before interest and tax were up 12.8 per cent.

Managing Director and CEO, Mark Ryan, said that the results could be attributed to Australia’s increased salmon consumption, more efficient operations and streamlining of the supply chain.

2 September 2015, Edition 164

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