Neighbours of Fish Farming

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Neighbours of Fish Farming (NOFF) is a community organisation in southern Tasmania. Our objective is to promote sustainable, responsible fish farming, regulated by transparent government and commercial processes.

Latest News

The Tasmanian Alliance for Marine Protection Rally at Orford, Dec 20, at 10.30

  • Tassal, Huon Aquaculture and Petuna are planning AGGRESSIVE expansions in our waterways.
  • A secret Government committee is planning NOW just where that expansion is going to be.
  • When it reports next year IT’LL BE TOO LATE to stop the sea grab.

We Have To Stop It Before It Starts

Join us at the Tasmanian Alliance for Marine Protection Rally to Stop Expansion of Industrial Fish Farms, Sunday 20 December, 10.30am at Millington’s Beach, Orford

Download a map (160kb, JPG)

For full details as they develop:

Sabotage ruled out

The recent escape of 130,000 salmon from Huon Aquaculture feedlots in Storm Bay was definitely not the result of sabotage, The Tasmanian Alliance for Marine Protection (TAMP) has learned. Government officials have told TAMP that Huon Aquaculture has confirmed there was no sabotage, contrary to implications by CEO, France Bender, in the days after the escape. Read the full press release here (one page, PDF).

Huon Island is dying

NOFF calls on industrial salmon producers to quit the Huon before it is completely destroyed by their reckless practices and start transitioning to land based salmon production as a matter of urgency.
Releasing a video, NOFF president, Peter George, said the footage clearly shows reefs at Huon Island being killed by algae and marine growth stimulated by toxic nutrient overloads from salmon feeding lots. The video is a joint production of NOFF and TAMP.

Tasmania missing out

Tasmania is missing out on both economic and environmental benefits from salmon farming in the state, according to the co-chair of the Tasmanian Alliance for Marine Protection, Peter George. “In the latest round of Norwegian auctions for salmon farming licences, 30 Norwegian companies have paid an average of A$34,000 for each tonne of production. This underlines how much Tasmania has to gain if only the state’s politicians had the courage to make Tassal, Huon Aquaculture and Petuna pay the true market price for their leases,” Mr George said. “The industry earns millions each year but returns peanuts to the state”.

Read the full text of the TAMP press release (2 pages, PDF). This was also published by The Advocate (possibly paywalled)

Huon Aquaculture gets a (very minor) slap on the wrist for breaking environmental protection rules.

Tasmania’s industrial fish farmer, Huon Aquaculture, has got away with it almost scot free.

A company with revenues of $145 million will have to stump up a mere $40,000 fine for six breaches of Tasmania’s environment protection regulations – one of which included dumping 80,000 litres of contaminated water considered toxic to marine life … on land right beside the Huon River.

That’s the result of a criminal court case against Huon Aquaculture that wound up in the Hobart Magistrates Court yesterday (Monday, May 4).

The company claimed the breaches were errors created by managers who were unaware of environment protection notices (EPNs) designed to avoid exactly what happened.

A fine of $40,000 might well be considered “just the cost of doing business” for a multi-million-dollar business.

And if the company was caught out repeatedly between January and May of 2018 – which it was on at least three occasions – it’s reasonable to ask what other breaches have not been uncovered before, after and during this period.

According to the company’s lawyers these criminal actions to which the company has now pleaded guilty and been convicted, were the result of accidents and oversights.

On one occasion a centrifuge broke down, on another a stormwater drain overflowed with contaminated water because of unexpectedly heavy rains, on another occasion fish pens brought ashore to be cleaned of toxic antifouling paint were not properly covered because “the weights were not heavy enough”.

Because the company eventually admitted the offences and pleaded guilty there was no open court hearing at which evidence could have been presented and challenged – so we never heard from the managers who the company says didn’t know what the regulations were.

A full court hearing might have seen senior management in the witness box defending the company’s environmental practices – and then being cross-examined on them.

The whole affair leaves a lot of questions unanswered – particularly since the original changes were watered down after confidential discussions between the Environment Protection Authority, the prosecution service and the company.

The magistrate, F.M. Daly, was pretty scathing in his judgment: it was “a mystery”, he said, why environmental protection notices were “not at the forefront of the company’s operations”.

Mr Daly said the company had ”deliberately dispersed” water in ignorance of the notices; it was obvious the company was obligated to heed the notices and had not done so; the company was slow to respond once the breaches had been uncovered; and “no satisfactory reason” had been given as to why responsible company employees were unaware of the environmental conditions imposed on them.

Despite this, the $40,000 penalty amounts to less than a pinprick for Huon.
What’s more, its reputation is hardly dented because of the abysmal lack of coverage of the case in the media.

One might ask: “So what’s new?” Answer: not much.

Huon Aquaculture, Tassal and Petuna still appear to be very much a law unto themselves, supported by major political parties in thrall to their financial muscle, governed by poor regulation, supervised by underfunded agencies and reviewed by politically-influenced boards.

Our guess: Huon may have been convicted on six criminal charges of putting our waterways in danger but there’ll be champagne corks popping in celebration at Huon’s headquarters in the aftermath of the court case.

This news has been reported by the Tasmanian Times and the Hobart Mercury (paywalled)

Huon Aquaculture pleads guilty to serious pollution charges

The industrial fish farming company, Huon Aquaculture, has admitted to five charges of breaching environmental conditions placed on its operations on the Huon River. It also admitted to one charge of depositing pollutant where environmental harm could result.
Huon Aquaculture pleaded guilty to six charges under the Environmental Management and Pollution Control Act which carry penalties of more than $150,000 each. The decision on penalties will be given on May 4. Until last week, Huon faced more serious charges but the charges had been reduced following negotiations between Huon Aquaculture and the EPA. The offences occurred between January and May 2018.
The prosecutor said the offences indicated a systemic failure, that appropriate staff were not aware of the environmental conditions imposed on them, that the company had not trained and educated its personnel, and had failed to take its environmental obligations into account.
The lawyer for Huon Aquaculture said the company wished to issue an apology to the wider community and that it took full responsibility for the offences. However, he argued the volume and scale of the incidents was not large, the company had fully coöperated with the investigators, and that action had been taken to make employees aware of environmental conditions under which they work. More details are available in TAMP’s report on proceedings (3 pages, PDF).

The Tasmanian Alliance for Marine Protection (TAMP) and Neighbours of Fish Farming (NOFF) welcomed the guilty plea by Huon Aquaculture and called for full disclosure of the nature of the negotiations that led to the downgrading of the charges.
NOFF president and co-chair of TAMP, Peter George, said in a press release (2 pages, PDF) that previous penalties have amounted to little more than a slap on the wrist for companies that are multi-million dollar earners, and that the offences to which Huon Aquaculture has pleaded guilty are merely the tip of the iceberg.

We all want to see greater transparency and more oversight of fish farm operations Mr George said. It’s not just crucial to our marine environment but to Tasmania’s excellent reputation throughout Australia and the world.

Secrecy just creates a fishy smell

An opinion piece in the Hobart Mercury recently posed some serious questions for the salmon industry in Tasmania, and concludes that the industry needs greater transparency in their actions, to protect our brand Tasmania, and redeem their social license so the community can allow them to borrow our environment for their economic gain.

NOFF study shows salmon industry and government websites are of little use as sources of information

A recent study by NOFF identifies issues about the usability and content of the websites of the leading players in the Tasmanian salmon farming industry: Tassal, Huon Aquaculture, Petuna, DPIPWE and the EPA. Some of the websites appear on first examination to be quite good examples of modern website design, however each of them has flaws in structure, content and indexing. Taken together, there are inconsistencies in content, indexing and terminology which make it impossible for members of the public to access data on specific aspects of the industry on a state or regional basis, or across time.

State of Storm Bay report shows cultural and natural values, gaps in current information

There are serious concerns about the potential impacts of the planned expansion of salmon farming into Tasmania’s Storm Bay, including impacts on the natural, community and economic values of the region. The report identifies these current values, provides an extensive list of references to other sources of information, and calls for an independent State of Storm Bay Report, to ensure that existing information is readily available, major gaps highlighted, and a case made to address these, before any expansion.

Environment Tasmania report shows high levels of pollution in Derwent and Florentine headwaters

A scientific report for Environment Tasmania shows high levels of pollution in the headwaters of the Derwent and Florentine rivers, downstream from two salmon hatcheries. It reveals very high nutrient levels in both the outfalls and downstream rivers, ranging from 5 to more than 128 times upstream levels. Significant levels of fouling were also observed on the rocks and river bed downstream. Coliform and E coli bacteria levels in one outfall were extremely high, and there was a strong odour and visible slick in the area.

Making mountains out of minnows: Salmon in the Tasmanian economy

The Australia Institute reports that the economic benefit of the salmon industry to Tasmania is weighted strongly against its environmental and social impacts. Yet it accounts for just 1% of jobs in the state.

Over 5 years $3.8 billion worth of fish were sold, but just $64 million tax paid, while $9.3 million in subsidies were received in 2 years. Changing generous leasing arrangements to the Norwegian model could raise $2 billion for community development.

Download our media release (PDF, 2 pages)

Few companies follow their own industry standards

In September 2018 Seachoice published a report which reviewed how well the world’s fish farming industry conforms to the standards of its own Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC). Their review states that the ASC “responsibly farmed” eco-label is considered the gold Standard of farmed seafood eco-certifications. But our review of ASC certified salmon farms around the world reveals only a small proportion of farms follow the eco-label’s stipulated criteria, yet they are still being certified. Their analysis of Australia (PDF, 6 pages) reveals significant non-conformities with the standard. Their summary recommendation is that It is critical that eco-certifications are leading to genuine changes on the water and not simply rewarding business as usual.

(Earlier news is on our Resources page)