27 July 2017


I’m just back from Hobart where I’ve been listening to a wide range of stakeholders about their views, and of a vision where the world’s best salmon farming also protects Tasmania’s marine environment.

Tasmania has incredible iconic marine sites such as Freycinet Peninsula and Port Davey. It’s also home to a very successful salmon farming industry that’s enjoying incredible growth - which is good for the local economy and livelihoods.

Our work on farmed fish production, including salmon, is linked with the future of wild fish stocks and other marine species. More than 31% of the world's wild fisheries are estimated to be overfished, and demand is forecast to drive unsustainable fishing practices in our oceans. Properly practiced responsible aquaculture has an important role to play in feeding Australia and the world.

As salmon farming grows, however, communities have given voice to their concerns, and that is natural, appropriate, and to be welcomed. Those concerns must be addressed through transparency of industry and government regulation. The community must also have confidence that industry will expand appropriately, and not in areas where environmental values or other uses are identified as the priority. And of course all salmon farming in Tasmania should be operating at global best practice for environmental management of factors such as nutrients, chemical and antibiotics, wildlife interactions and sustainability of wild fish ingredients in the fish diets.  

The Tasmanian salmon farming industry is already one of the best managed in the world - over 60% of their salmon is certified by the Aquaculture Stewardship Council, the world’s best available standard for responsible salmon farming. But as you may know, there are challenges in places like Macquarie Harbour, an incredibly complex marine environment, and we acknowledge that there is room for further improvement.

So the WWF team and I have spent the past months listening and talking with many of the stakeholders. We have identified three things we believe need to happen so that Tasmania's special marine environments and areas of high environmental value are protected, but that also allow the salmon farmers to continue their role in the community and economy of the island State.

This is not an exhaustive list, but our research indicates that three vital things need to happen:

  1. all Tasmanian salmon farmers are certified by the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC);
  2. the impacts of multiple salmon farmers operating in one area are minimised;
  3. no-go zones for aquaculture are established to protect Tasmania’s marine environment.

These are our ideas. But what is important as a next step is to hear from all stakeholders so that Tasmanians can build a collective vision, together. That’s why we’ll continue to work with the salmon industry, the regulators, the scientists and the community of Tasmania.

Right now, to help us move the discussion forward, a common understanding of some of the technical issues involved is really important. It means the public, government and industry can hold a proper conversation. For example, that is why we are calling on government to work with all stakeholders to agree a common definition of onshore, offshore, oceanic, and similar salmon farming practices. WWF-Australia is looking forward to working with Petuna, Huon and Tassal, plus other stakeholders, to help create an evidence based discussion, with clearly expressed issues, in order to help resolve the challenges.

This video featuring our seafood and aquaculture expert, Jo McCrea, tells you more about our involvement, what has been achieved, and the challenges that we are working to overcome.

Sustainability has been called a journey, and it can be a long one of constant improvements as we learn from science and practice. As we move ahead, my team and I will keep you updated as we continue to work for the protection of Tasmania’s marine environment.