Frequently Asked Questions

Contents

Is NOFF opposed to salmon farming?

No! NOFF wants salmon farming to be done in a non-polluting, sustainable way, preferably on land, and with much more government and industry transparency. We want a sustainable fish farming industry in Tasmania that is well-regulated and transparent so that its successes and its failings are clear for all to see. We want a moratorium on any further expansion of the industry until proper, independent science is able to monitor the impact on our waters and coastline. NOFF believes fish farming has to move on shore. (Back to contents list)

Who or what is TAMP?

The Tasmanian Alliance for Marine Protection (TAMP) is an umbrella organisation for professional fishers, recreational fishers, businesses, sailors, individuals, community groups and coastal residents concerned about the impact of industrial salmon farms. NOFF is a member of TAMP. (Back to contents list)

How is salmon farming damaging the environment?

  • Algal blooms caused by high levels of nitrogen from fish faeces, and seabeds laid waste by faeces and excess feed that smothers life on the sea bottom.
  • Fish hatcheries where the river water is fouled by pollutants and algae.
  • Debris constantly found in waterways and on shorelines.
  • 24/7 noise carrying long distances over water, and bright lights at night in rural coastal communities.
  • High fish pen densities means any diseases spread rapidly, and can transfer to wild populations.
  • Atlantic salmon are not native to our waters. 2-3% of fish regularly escape from pens, plus occasional major escapes. Much more research is needed on the impact of escapes on wild fish. (Back to Contents list)

How does salmon farming work?

Salmon production takes about 3 years. Hatching occurs in controlled freshwater environments, usually on land, and when the salmon are about a year old, they are transported to seawater pens. They reach a harvestable size after 12-18 months, then they are killed and prepared for sale. (Back to Contents list)

Is it true that farmed salmon are fed artificial dyes to improve their colour?

Wild salmon eat a lot of shellfish high in a carotenoid called astaxanthin, which gives them their orange color. Farmed fish food, as well as wild fish meal, contains increasing proportions of meat, chicken and blood meal, poultry oil, vegetables, vitamins and minerals, which turns the salmon flesh grey. So salmon farmers include astaxanthin in fish feed to produce the orange colour salmon eaters expect. (Back to Contents list)

What about antibiotics? How do the fish farms control diseases?

  • Fish farmers sometimes give the salmon antibiotics and animal drugs. There are concerns that this could increase human antibiotic resistance.
  • Amoebic gill disease is a common threat, particularly in summer. It deteriorates salmon gills so they don’t get enough oxygen. It can be washed off in a process called ‘bathing’, sometimes every 30-40 days, which involves pumping fish through a tube into a freshwater tank, and then returning them to their sea pen. Bathing is done on board large specialized wellboats, or by towing the pens very slowly to shore-based facilities with access to fresh water. Processes like this are very stressful for fish and can result in injuries and mortalities. In 2018, a Tassal farm killed 30,000 fish during a ‘bathing’ treatment, citing ‘human error’ as the cause.
  • In 2018, over one million fish died from pilchard orthomyxovirus (POMV) in Tasmanian fish farms. (Back to Contents list)

They shoot seals, don’t they?

  • Seals are protected native animals, drawn to fish farms as a food source. To deter them, fish farms are allowed to fire beanbag bullets at seals which habitually approach the farms. There have been reports of seals being blinded and deafened as a result of this.
  • Until recently, fish farmers were allowed to relocate troublesome seals to far north western Tasmania, however this is no longer allowed because of the adverse effect on local commercial and recreational fishing operations in those areas. (Back to Contents list)

How will global warming affect our salmon farming industry?

  • Salmon farming requires water temperatures of 8 – 14 degrees Celsius. Last year water temperatures in Hobart ranged from 11 to 15 degrees, and there have been recent large fish losses during heat spikes. Global warming means that our ocean temperatures are rising quite rapidly, and will continue to rise, which will make current salmon farming marginal at best within a few years.
  • Worldwide, the salmon industry is exploring moving to colder deep ocean areas. But there is a much greater effort towards raising salmon ashore in huge tanks, using water that is filtered and recycled with fish waste removed and used for agricultural fertiliser. Tasmania is falling rapidly behind. (Back to Contents list)

Is Farmed Salmon Bad for You?

  • Typically, wild salmon have fewer calories, saturated fat and vitamins A and D than farmed salmon, but contain more protein.
  • Wild salmon meat has an approximately equal amount of omega 6 to omega 3 fatty acid content. In farmed salmon, however, the fatty acid ratio is skewed, with omega 6 much higher than omega 3 fatty acid levels. Omega 6 fatty acid is already overabundant in western diets, especially high in processed foods, and considered by some nutritionists to be unhealthy for humans. (Back to Contents list)

Surely fish farming on land would be too expensive, just as contaminating, or just too impractical?

  • Any potential contamination from closed-loop fish farming can be strictly monitored. The main effluent from a fish farm is faeces – and that’s a good agricultural fertiliser which is easily marketed.
  • The set-up costs of closed-loop fish farming ashore are considerable. However, the costs of running the installations is far less than the cost of maintaining fish pens that require towing, cleaning, repairing and protecting from weather. (Back to Contents list)

Surely fish farming out at sea would be too expensive, and incredibly difficult and dangerous?

  • Scandinavian producers have developed ways of farming fish in deep, stormy ocean waters. There are no shortage of industry leaders overseas for Tasmanian fish farmers to follow.
  • NOFF is neutral on the economics of such methods when it comes to the smaller Tasmanian enterprises, but we suspect that moving onshore would be more economically viable. (Back to Contents list)

Does the technology exist to move on-shore or off-shore?

Yes. The past decade has seen huge investment overseas in developing shore-based fish farming. There is an increasing risk that overseas operators will establish land-based facilities on the Australian mainland, close to their main markets, and Tasmania will not be able to compete. (Back to Contents list)

Surely fish farms are essential to Tasmania because of the income and jobs they generate?

  • Yes, but fish farms employ just 0.6% of the Tasmanian workforce. What’s more, employment is dropping because of remote feeding and monitoring technology, and more automated new ships.
  • Fish farmers pay very little to use our waterways. The cost of leases in other parts of the world is far higher – and much of the money raised goes to the local community. Large portions of the profits from Tasmanian fish farms go to the Federal Government through taxes, and to shareholders who are mainly overseas or interstate.
  • Relative to salmon farming, our tourism, hospitality and agricultural industries are far more important, and will suffer reputational damage if current fish farming operations continue unchanged and unchecked. (Back to Contents list)

What’s happening in Storm Bay and the Tasman Peninsula

All three fish farming companies are planning massive expansions into Storm Bay. There are plans to produce 80,000 tonnes of Atlantic Salmon, which would produce five times more sewage annually than the whole of the Tasmanian population. Already there are new pens off the west coast of the Tasman Peninsula and off Bruny Island. Close to the World Heritage site of Port Arthur, Stingaree Bay is being polluted by stinking algae that covers the rocks and beaches – in the wake of Tassal re-opening its leases there and stocking its pens. (Back to Contents list)