The Australia Institute Tasmania’s work was critical to triggering the federal EPBC review of salmon farming in Macquarie Harbour.
UPDATE: Two of the four endangered Maugean skates have died in the captive breeding program designed to prevent their extinction. With fewer than 1000 skates left, it’s more important than ever for Macquarie Harbour to recover so that the skate can survive in its only natural habitat.
The Australia Institute and Equity Generation Lawyers wrote to the Environment Minister in June 2023 with new scientific evidence showing the endangered Maugean skate, a ray-like animal, is at risk of extinction in Macquarie Harbour, due in large part to salmon farming, and requesting a reconsideration of the original EPBC Act decision that allowed marine farming operations in Macquarie Harbour.
Triggered by the Australia Insitute’s letter, Federal Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek announced the review under the EPBC Act on 30 November 2023.
The public consultation opened on Monday, 4 December and closes on Friday 2 February 2024.
Now is your chance to have your say in the public consultation. You don’t need to be a scientist, this is a public consultation and the Department wants to hear from the community. We encourage you to participate in this review and below we have prepared some helpful resources for you.
Here are some key issues to consider in your submission:
- The Maugean skate is listed as Endangered under both state and federal legislation and is found only in Macquarie Harbour; one third of Macquarie Harbour is within the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area and the skate is one of the values of the World Heritage Area. Australia’s Threatened Species Scientific Committee has recommended increasing the threat level faced by the skate from endangered to critically endangered.
- Two of the four endangered Maugean skates have died in the captive breeding program designed to prevent their extinction. With fewer than 1000 skates left, it’s more important than ever for Macquarie Harbour to recover so that the skate can survive in its only natural habitat.
- In May 2023, Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS) scientists interrupted a Maugean skate monitoring program to call for urgent conservation action, after finding the population of skate has rapidly declined by almost half since 2014. Of particular concern is that they found very few juveniles coming through to keep the population viable.
- The decision to greenlight expanded marine farming operations was made more than a decade ago under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act, on the grounds the operations would not significantly impact the species.
- The IMAS report and other research published since this decision (summarised in our letter), confirms fish farms are having a significant impact on the Maugean skate. Fish farming is having the most detrimental impact on dissolved oxygen in the water, pushing the Maugean skate towards extinction due to lack of oxygen. Macquarie Harbour has unusual hydrodynamics, and the regulation of hydro-electric dam releases is a secondary concern because it can prevent natural reoxygenation. Gillnetting, extreme weather and climate change are adding to the threats, but the primary problem is the lack of oxygen caused by pollution from fish farming.
- The Conservation Advice for the Maugean skate, clearly identifies fish farming in Macquarie harbour as causing the main impact on the endangered Maugean skate. It says:
– The highest priority conservation action is to “eliminate or significantly reduce the impacts of salmonid aquaculture on dissolved oxygen concentrations.”
– It says the fastest and simplest way to achieve this is to significantly reduce fish biomass.
– This is an urgent priority to be actioned before this summer (2023-24).
- The IMAS report and other research published since 2012 provide substantial new information about the impacts of salmon farming on the Maugean skate. This is evidence of a substantial change in circumstances that was not foreseen at the time of the original decision in relation to the impacts of salmon farming on the Maugean skate.
- The science is clear: Minister Plibersek should change the decision that allowed large-scale fish farming a decade ago. This activity is clearly having an unacceptable impact and a decision should be made that recognises that.
- Salmon farming in Macquarie Harbour must end to save the skate.
Between the Lines Newsletter
The biggest stories and the best analysis from the team at the Australia Institute, delivered to your inbox every fortnight.
You might also like
The science is clear: Removing fish farming from Macquarie Harbour is an urgent priority to be actioned before this summer.
New research released by The Australia Institute today highlights the modest jobs numbers and tax payments by the Tasmanian salmon industry.