Toxic by Richard Flanagan

Richard Flanagan’s book Toxic: The Rotting Underbelly of the Tasmanian Salmon Industry is a scorcher. In bookstores now. As Penguin says: “Flanagan busts open an industry that is as secretive as its practices are destructive and disturbing. If you care about what you eat, if you care about the environment, this is a book you need to read. Toxic is set to become a landmark book of the twenty-first century.”

In a short, powerful speech at the Hobart Town Hall, Tasmanian author Richard Flanagan laid out the prospect of the Atlantic salmon industry reaching out its tentacles to grab huge swathes of Tasmania’s north coast in the massive sea grab already being planned in secret:

You, your community and the science will, behind closed doors, be ignored. The only guarantee is that the decision was long ago made by the salmon companies and will be endorsed by government bodies and boards in bad faith, garlanded with sickening lies made by the politicians at the end.

And then the floating feed lots will start ring worming along the north coast, locking up your seas and bringing a long, slow death to your fishing grounds. Your beaches will slime. Your bays will fill with silt and grow algae. Jelly fish and seals will proliferate while so many other sea creatures will vanish and whole ecosystems collapse.”

You can read his full speech here (3 pages, PDF).

The Good Weekend (The Age and Sydney Morning Herald) ran a great article on the whole issue, and you can listen to a podcast here. The tagline says: Marketed as a clean, green superfood, farmed Atlantic salmon is a favourite on dinner plates across the globe. But as Gabriella Coslovich discovered, a growing number are questioning how ethically the fish is farmed in Tasmania, and what that’s doing to the state’s once-pristine waterways. Leading the charge to clean up the industry is Tasmania’s most acclaimed author, Booker prize winner Richard Flanagan, who joins Gabriella to discuss salmon’s history in his home state, its impact today, and what the future might hold.

Non-fiction Horror!

The environmental consultant who resigned in disgust when a government panel approved industrial salmon expansion into Tasmania’s Storm Bay gave a big thumbs up to Richard Flanagan’s new book Toxic – an exposé of the industry’s dirty secrets. Louise Cherrie was speaking at a packed Hobart Town hall meeting which called for more transparency, science and regulation of the industry – and on the big supermarkets to stop stocking Tasmanian salmon until it becomes a sustainable industry. Louise knows what she’s talking about – she’s a specialist in heavy polluting industry – and she reckons Richard has invented a whole new genre of literature with Toxic.

You can read an edited extract from the book in The Monthly. You can also watch there an accompanying documentary video by Justin Kurzel and Conor Castles-Lynch.

Richard Flanagan is the author of The Sound of One Hand Clapping, Gould’s Book of Fish and the Man Booker prize-winning The Narrow Road to the Deep North. Justin Kurzel is a film director. His films include Snowtown, Macbeth, Assassin’s Creed, True History of the Kelly Gang and the forthcoming Nitram. Conor Castles-Lynch is a passionate documentary filmmaker based in Hobart, Tasmania. Conor co-directed the award-winning film Nus Essan Rumantschs, and has spent the past four years working in film in Tasmania.