Support For Tasmanian Salmon Motion Would Ignore Voters, Economics and Science


With Tasmania’s Legislative Council set to vote on a motion praising the state’s salmon industry, research released today by the Australia Institute Tasmania shows a strong majority of residents in the Tasmanian electorate of Franklin are concerned about the health of the state’s coastal marine environment, including the impacts of salmon farming on marine life.

Separate research also calls into question the industry’s claims about employment in the state.

The motion, listed for debate on Tuesday, ‘Acknowledges that the Tasmanian salmon industry is a vital social and economic contributor to the Tasmanian community’.

Waters adjacent to Franklin, the Huon Estuary and D’Entrecasteaux Channel are host to the highest proportion of fish farms in Tasmania.

Key points – Frankin voters:

  • Three in four Franklin voters (76%) were concerned about the health of Tasmania’s coastal marine environment.
  • Concern ranged from 59% of Liberal voters to 99% of Greens voters.
  • Three in four Franklin voters (74%) support the Parliamentary Inquiry recommendation to reduce inshore salmon farming, with priority given to ceasing operations in sensitive, sheltered, and biodiverse areas.
    Just one in six (17%) oppose this recommendation.
  • A majority of Franklin voters (56%) support stopping fish farming where it risks the extinction of the Maugean skate.
  • Salmon farming impacts were ranked as the most urgent priority that needs action to protect Tasmania’s marine life, with one in three Franklin voters (34%) choosing this option.

“The salmon farming industry is running an intentional campaign to exaggerate the significance of their contribution to the Tasmanian community – and supporting such a motion would show that Tasmanian politicians are swallowing their rhetoric,” said Eloise Carr, Director of the Australia Institute Tasmania.

“Franklin voters live at the heart of the salmon industry and our research shows they are deeply concerned about its impact on marine health.

“The waters off the coast of Franklin host the most salmon farms of any coastal environment around Tasmania and a vast majority of residents there want salmon farms out of sheltered inshore waters.

“Our research shows that when it comes to protecting Tasmania’s coasts, we have public opinion and scientific evidence on one side, and the vested interests of the salmon industry on the other.

“This research supports previous nationwide research, which found that three in five respondents (61%) support stopping fish farming where it puts the endangered Maugean skate at risk of extinction, while one in six (17%) oppose it,” said Ms Carr.

Key Points – Employment:

  • According to Australian Bureau of Statistics census numbers, there are at best 1,722 people employed in the salmon industry in Tasmania.
  • This figure is almost certainly an overestimation by including employment in other seafood industries. The figure also includes seafood process workers and seafood wholesaling.
  • 1,722 makes up about 0.7% of employment in Tasmania, meaning 99.3% of Tasmanian workers are not employed in the salmon industry.
  • On Tasmania’s west coast, including Strahan, Zeehan, Roseberry, Tullah, and Trial Harbour, aquaculture accounts for 4.2% of total employment, not the 17% the industry is claiming.
  • According to Tourism Tasmania, 19,400 people are employed in tourism, ten times as many as the salmon industry.
  • Tourism employment makes up 6.3% of Tasmanian employment.

“We’ve looked at the census data – the most accurate and independent data available – and the industry’s figures just don’t stack up. For the area on the west coast, including Strahan, Zeehan, Roseberry, Tullah, and Trial Harbour, aquaculture is only 4.2% of all employment. This is important to point out, because the industry claims it is responsible for 17% of all jobs on the West Coast and is therefore integral to the economic and social wellbeing of the region,’ said Matt Grudnoff, Senior Economist, the Australia Institute.

“The salmon industry continues to exaggerate its economic significance to the Tasmanian community. All jobs are important in a place like Tasmania, but it is important to report accurate figures, not exaggerated ones.,” said Ms Carr.

“Tourism is a major employer in Tasmania. This is particularly so for Strahan and surrounds where many tourism jobs rely on the health of Macquarie Harbour and far outnumber those in aquaculture.

“Macquarie Harbour has been so damaged by this industry that its recovery is going to require drastic action. The industry’s reductions to date have not improved the situation. Clearly, they need to go much further and not renew their licences to operate, for the Harbour to have a chance to recover.  Our research shows Franklin voters support measures to protect the skate and Tasmania’s coastal waters.

“The time for “business as usual” for the salmon industry is long past. Without immediate, decisive action, this government and the salmon industry will go down in history for being linked to the extinction of a species.”

Additional information:

The Parliamentary Inquiry into Finfish Farming report tabled in May 2022, highlighted the many problems faced by the industry. The top recommendation has only been partially implemented, while nothing has been done towards implementing recommendations 2 and 3. Many of the other key recommendations arising from the Inquiry also await action. The Australia Institute has again included a question about Recommendation 3 in this latest research.

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