Tasmania’s Stories

Salmon farmer looks north-west

Edition 187_PetunaWeb

North-west Tasmania, including King Island, emerged in August as a likely option for continued expansion of salmon farming in Tasmania.

Devonport-based Petuna Aquaculture, the smallest of the State's three major farmers, is set to be the first investor in a region that is well removed from the ocean-warming threat of the recently unpredictable East Australian Current.

Petuna has an environmental monitoring permit to investigate prospective sites near Three Hummock Island.

The company's Acting Chief Executive, David Wood, said the 50-job expansion that would cost tens of millions of dollars was still at least three years away.

Mr Wood said Petuna would work with the local community to ensure any new development had a social licence.

The north-west has a pro-development reputation, but conservationists were quick to call public meetings to build opposition to the plan.

The Minister for Primary Industry, Jeremy Rockliff, said: “The salmon industry already supports more than 5,200 jobs, most in regional Tasmania, and the rich fishing history of Circular Head and King Island makes them ideal locations for expansion.

"There is resource for everyone. Tourism and aquaculture can, have done and will continue to co-exist."

Petuna's target sites are among a number of "grow zones" identified in the State's Sustainable Industry Growth Plan For The Salmon Industry which was released for public comment in August.

The draft plan rules out further expansion on the east coast north of the Tasman Peninsula, but declares a grow zone around Flinders Island, as well as those created at the western end of Bass Strait.

The plan proposes that:

  • Future growth should be largely oceanic rather than estuarine;
  • A fin-fish farming unit should be established within the Environmental Protection Authority and funded by industry levies;
  • A formal agreement on sustainable farming in Macquarie Harbour should be negotiated between licence holders and the Government; and
  • There should be a zero-tolerance approach to the generation of marine debris.

Mr Rockliff said: "We want to see this world-class industry continue to grow sustainably from its current position of $730 million in annual revenue...

"I know many Tasmanians want to see the industry grow, but also they want to have the confidence that we have the regulations right."

Huon Aquaculture made recommendations about the regulatory structure and suggested that an international symposium on salmon farming should be held in Tasmania later this year, in collaboration with the Institute of Marine and Antarctic Studies.

The symposium proposal was immediately supported by the Government, the Labor Opposition and Tassal Ltd.

In reference to Petuna's plans, the Mayor of Circular Head, Daryl Quilliam, said: "Fishing has always been an important industry for Circular Head ... further development would be really good for us."

He said jobs would be needed if the Murray Goulburn dairy plant at Edith Creek closes at the end of the year. Re-training of displaced workers would be important.

Meanwhile, Tassal received approval in August, under the Commonwealth's Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, for its planned $30 million expansion into Okehampton Bay.

Commonwealth approval was the final regulatory hurdle for the project and freed Tassal to start the process of putting salmon in the water.

Okehampton Bay now looks likely to be the last new lease on the upper east coast.

Tassal is also restocking a lease at Long Bay, near Port Arthur, 11 years after it was last used.

The 15ha site is being prepared for at least seven salmon pens, with an option of expanding to 14 in the future.

Huon Aquaculture has received an environmental monitoring permit to explore the potential for oceanic farming off South Bruny Island.

Mr Rockcliff said: “This permit is part of the preliminary investigation process covering issues like water temperature, tidal flow and depth and also includes extensive local community consultation."

Having weathered a fierce campaign in the media over Okehampton Bay, Tassal was named in August as the No. 2 aquaculture business in the world for its reporting.

The Seafood Intelligence annual Transparency Benchmarking Report ranks businesses on transparent corporate, social and environmental communication.

The Okehampton Bay project faces on-going Tasmanian Green opposition and possible court challenges, as well as the physical threat of ocean "heat waves" carried south on the East Australian Current.

Tassal intends to put 28 pens, capable of holding 800,000 fish, in the bay near Triabunna.

The company's Senior Manager Corporate Engagement, Barbara McGregor, said the project would incorporate multiple species including kelp, mussels and, potentially, sea urchins.

She described Okehampton Bay as an "eco-aquaculture site" and said the project would create 50 sorely needed regional jobs.

The Commonwealth imposed conditions aimed at protecting migrating southern right whales that might enter the bay, including requiring all boats to use navigational sonar.

Australia's Environment Minister, Josh Frydenberg, said: “The decision is supported by independent environmental advice and follows ... public consultation.”

There is on-going disagreement about community attitudes to the project.

ReachTEL polling commissioned by The Mercury showed that 47.9 per cent of respondents state-wide did not support fish farming in the bay, while 29.4 per cent were in favour and 22.7 per cent were undecided.

However, in terms of issues that matter most to those Tasmanians surveyed, fish farming rated at only 2.9 per cent, while jobs and the economy rated 32.8 per cent.

Tassal is confident it has sufficient local support for the project.

Environment Tasmania, which has led the campaign against the project, is considering a legal challenge, potentially involving an injunction to stop Tassal acting to begin farming.

Tassal has offered to take its critics on tours of the site to show off joint ventures including the growing of native seaweeds and the harvesting of invasive long-spined sea urchins, as well as mussels.

Meanwhile, an action in the Hobart Supreme Court by Huon Aquaculture against the Director of the Environment Protection Authority, Wes Ford, has been adjourned.

Tasmania’s second largest salmon producer is challenging the validity of Mr Ford's final biomass decision for fish farm leases which occupy about 1 per cent of the surface of Macquarie Harbour in western Tasmania.

Huon has also lodged proceedings in the Federal Court in relation to the biomass limits which it claims are too generous and could lead to environmental damage in the harbour.

Image courtesy of Petuna Aquaculture

6 September 2017, Edition 187

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Facts about Tasmania


Tasmania is the southernmost state of Australia, located at latitude 40° south and longitude 144° east and separated from the continent by Bass Strait. It is a group of 334 islands, with the main island being 315 km (180 miles) from west to east and 286 km (175 miles) north to south.


Tasmanians are resourceful and innovative people, committed to a continually expanding export sector. In 2012-13, international exports from the state totalled $3.04 billion. USA, China, Taiwan, India, Japan and other Asian countries account for the bulk of exports, with goods and services also exported to Europe and many other regions.


Tasmania is similar in size to the Republic of Ireland or Sri Lanka. The Tasmanian islands have a combined coastline of more than 3,000 km.


The main island has a land area of 62,409 sq km (24,096 sq miles) and the minor islands, taken together, total only 6 per cent of the main island's land area. The biggest islands are Flinders (1,374 sq km/539 sq miles), King, Cape Barren, Bruny and Macquarie Islands.


About 250km (150 miles) separates Tasmania’s main island from continental Australia. The Kent Group of Islands, one of the most northerly parts of the state, is only 55km (34 miles) from the coast of the Australian continent.


Twice named 'Best Temperate Island in the World' by international travel magazine Conde Nast Traveler, Tasmania has a mild, temperate maritime climate, with four distinct seasons.


In summer (December to February) the average maximum temperature is 21° Celsius (70° Fahrenheit). In winter (June to August) the average maximum is 12° C (52° F) and the average minimum is 4° C (40° F). Snow often falls in the highlands, but is rarely experienced in more settled areas.

Annual Rainfall

Tasmania’s west coast is one of the wettest places in the world, but the eastern part of the State lives in a rain-shadow. Hobart, the second-driest capital city in Australia, receives about half as much rain as Sydney.

Annual Rainfall

Annual rainfall in the west is 2,400 mm (95 inches), but hardy locals insist there is no such thing as bad weather, only inadequate clothing. If you travel 120 km east to Hobart, you experience a much drier average of 626 mm (24 inches) a year.


The 512,875-strong community spreads itself across the land; less urbanised than the population of any other Australian state. Hobart, the capital city, is home to more than 212,000 people.

Capital City

Hobart nestles at the foot of Mt Wellington (1,270 m / 4,000 ft) and overlooks the Derwent Estuary, where pods of dolphins and migrating whales are sometimes seen from nearby beaches. Surrounded by thickly forested rolling hills, the city is home to the state parliament and the main campus of the University of Tasmania.

Capital City

Its historic centre features Georgian and Regency buildings from colonial times. Hobart is home port for coastal fishing boats, Antarctic expeditions and vessels that fish the Southern Ocean.

Land Formation

Mountain ranges in the south-west date back 1,000 million years. Ancient sediments were deeply buried, folded and heated under enormous pressure to form schists and glistening white quartzites.

Land Formation

In the south-west and central highlands, dolerite caps many mountains, including Precipitous Bluff and Tasmania's highest peak, Mt Ossa (1617 m / 5300 ft). More than 42 per cent of Tasmania is World Heritage Area, national park and marine or forest reserves.


Vegetation is diverse, from alpine heathlands and tall open eucalypt forests to areas of temperate rainforests and moorlands, known as buttongrass plains. Many plants are unique to Tasmania and the ancestors of some species grew on the ancient super-continent, Gondwana, before it broke up 50 million years ago.


Unique native conifers include slow-growing Huon pines, with one specimen on Mt Read estimated to be up to 10,000 years old. Lomatia tasmanica, commonly known as King's holly, is a self-cloning shrub that may well be the oldest living organism on earth. It was discovered in 1937.


Tasmania is the last refuge of several mammals that once roamed the Australian continent. It is the only place to see a Tasmanian devil or eastern quoll (native cat) in the wild and is the best place to see the spotted-tailed quoll (tiger cat), all carnivorous marsupials.


The eastern bettong and the Tasmanian pademelon, both now extinct on the Australian continent, may also be observed.


The Tasmanian tiger, or thylacine, was Australia's largest surviving carnivorous marsupial and is a modern day mystery. The last documented thylacine died in captivity in 1936 and although the animal is considered extinct, unsubstantiated sightings persist.

History and Heritage

Aboriginal people have lived in Tasmania for about 35,000 years, since well before the last Ice Age. They were isolated from the Australian continent about 12,000 years ago, when the seas rose to flood low coastal plains and form Bass Strait.

History and Heritage

Descendants of the original people are part of modern Tasmania's predominantly Anglo-Celtic population.

History and Heritage

Tasmania was originally named Van Dieman’s Land by the Dutch explorer Abel Janszoon Tasman in 1642. The island was settled by the British as a penal colony in 1803 and the original name was associated with the convict era. It was changed to Tasmania when convict transportation stopped in 1853.


A resourceful island culture has generated leading-edge niche industries, from production of high-speed catamaran ferries and marine equipment to lightning-protection technology.


Tasmanians produce winches and windlasses for some of the world's biggest ocean-going pleasure craft; large-scale inflatable evacuation systems and provide specialist outfit-accommodation services to the marine industry.


The Wooden Boat Centre at Shipwrights Point has re-established the skills and traditions of another age and attracts students from around the world.


Tasmania is a world leader in natural turf systems for major sporting arenas and in areas of mining technology and environmental management. Its aquaculture industry has developed ground-breaking fish-feeding technology and new packaging.


Tasmanians sell communications equipment to many navies and their world-class fine timber designers and craftsmen take orders internationally for furniture made from distinctive local timber.


The state is a natural larder with clean air, unpolluted water and rich soils inviting the production of 100 varieties of specialty cheeses, as well as other dairy products, mouth-watering rock lobsters, oysters, scallops and abalone, Atlantic salmon, beef, premium beers, leatherwood honey, mineral waters, fine chocolates, fresh berry fruits, apples and crisp vegetables.


Tasmania is a producer of award-winning cool-climate wines, beers, ciders and whiskies. Other export products include essential oils such as lavender, pharmaceutical products and premium wool sought after in Europe and Asia. Hobart is a vital gateway to the Antarctic and a centre for Southern Ocean and polar research.


The industries in Tasmania which made the greatest contribution to the state's gross product in 2010-11 in volume terms were: Manufacturing (9.4%), Health care and social assistance (8.2%), Financial and insurance services (7.2%), Ownership of dwellings and Agriculture, forestry and fishing (each 7.1%).

Getting to Tasmania

Travel is easy, whether by air from Sydney or Melbourne, or by sea, with daily sailings of the twin ferries Spirit of Tasmania 1 and 2 each way between Melbourne and Devonport throughout the year.

This site has been produced by the Brand Tasmania Council © 2014

Brand Tasmania

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