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‘Stop Eating Tasmanian Salmon’

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Transcript of media conference with Andrew Wilkie (Federal Independent MP for Clark), Laura Kelly (Environment Tasmania), Peter George (TAMP), Essie Davis (Bruny Island), Sheenagh Neill (sailor), Mark Bishop (commercial fisher), Hobart dockside, 22 April 2021. Essie Davis This machinery operates probably 24 hours a day outside our home. It’s like having a huge semi trailer […]

Transcript of media conference with Andrew Wilkie (Federal Independent MP for Clark), Laura Kelly (Environment Tasmania), Peter George (TAMP), Essie Davis (Bruny Island), Sheenagh Neill (sailor), Mark Bishop (commercial fisher), Hobart dockside, 22 April 2021.

Essie Davis

This machinery operates probably 24 hours a day outside our home. It’s like having a huge semi trailer parked, idling, beside your bedroom window. And people from many communities not just Bruny Island are having their whole lives and bodies affected by this noise pollution. People are frightened of standing up. But we as a community have to come together because individuals are being ignored and small groups are being ignored. And not only that, but when I take my children down to the channel to swim and fossick and fish and snorkel, there is nothing there. There is no kelp. There’s no abalone. There are no weedy sea dragons. There are no leatherjackets. There are no fish. There’s just a lot of sea lettuce and slime. And it’s devastating. And I don’t want any Tasmanian having to live near a fish farm, because they are bad neighbours. They ignore everyone. They take everything they can from the sea, and they leave it full of antibiotics, faeces, slime, and barren of the myriad of beautiful sea life that existed not so long ago. It’s our Tasmania, it is not the fish farms’.

Peter George

Mark Bishop, he’s a commercial fisherman from the northwest, which is about to be literally inundated.

Mark Bishop

Hi, I’m a commercial fisherman from Stanley and run a small fish retail outlet selling fresh fish. For those of you that don’t know where Stanley is, that’s where Governor Arthur banished the Van Diemens Land company to in the 1830s. It’s right up as far away from Hobart as you can get to Tasmania nearly. And it’s a remote area, it has very, very clean air as some of you may have read, and also has very, very clean water. The islands that I fish in are pristine. A thousand times more people will visit Port Davey each year than they would Three Hummock Island, that’s how remote it is. The weather is wild and the water is beautifully clear. And what that does, is provides an ideal environment for fish to reproduce. So what’s so important about the clean water is that it’s an ideal environment for fish to breed in the seagrass beds. And that is really important for all wild fisheries for the for the fish to reproduce. The company that wants to invade our waters is known as Petuna Aquaculture. But unfortunately, they’ve become very successful. And they’ve been bought out by a multinational company called Sealord. Now, it’s a funny name Sealord. When you think about it, it’s like they’ve got Lord over the seas. And it’s such an 18th century concept, isn’t it? That you can just come in and take over and do whatever you like, poor little fishermen like me are just going to be pushed out. And you know, why? Why should we allow that to happen? You hear a lot of words like world’s best practice, zero tolerance, transparency, sustainability. It’s all spin really, isn’t it? And given that spin, it’s not quite the truth. It’s the untruth. What that really is is lies. This industry tells lies to get its own way, to get everyone to believe that the product they’re producing is clean and green, cashing in on our environment. So what’s the answer? The solution and the answer is to get out of our coastal waters and go on land. Oh, it’s not viable industry says. Well, of course it’s not viable; our Tasmanian government charges them a small, minute amount of money for them to exist. So it’s very viable for them to operate and pollute our waters, they’re not getting charged for it. Tasmania is in deep financial trouble, that’s why we’re having an election. So why isn’t our government representing us and charging a reasonable rate for these big companies to use our waterways? They’re supposed to be representing us. So the solution is to get out of our coastal waters – it’s only a three mile strip off the coast – or go way offshore. 30 miles offshore. Thank you.

Peter George

Sheenagh Neill, yachtswoman, who is representing. It’s all water users of Tasmania.

Sheenagh Neill

I’m a sailor, and I get to see what’s happening out in the waterways;a lot of you people don’t get to see. And one of the things that I’m really concerned about is that despite zero tolerance, these companies are not changing their ways. The policies have changed, but the actual actions haven’t. They’re still losing stuff. MAST has already said that it’s going to kill somebody. And I am already seeing and hearing from people that they are getting hit, and they’re getting fixed quietly. So what happens when these companies double their size? If Tassal and Huon Aquaculture and Petuna cannot manage their current operations and contain their infrastructure within their own lease areas, how are we going to be safe in our waterways? How clean are our waterways going to be? Let’s think about this people. Tasmania has one opportunity to say no to this, and it’s coming soon to your doorway. They’re opening up the whole of Tasmania. This government is too close to them. The penalties are too tokenistic. The regulations are being ignored, and the monitoring is definitely and deliberately underfunded. The companies get away with it. So the least the government could do is let these people know, the people of Tasmania, know what’s coming next to them. Because the whole of the north coast, the east coast hasn’t been ruled out. Our sailing waters are the most precious in Tasmania and Australia as far as sailing goes, and other communities. We’re the biggest boating community in Australia. We’re not safe. It’s time to stop this. Thank you.

Peter George

Andrew Wilkie. I don’t think he needs any introduction to you, gentlemen and ladies,

Andrew Wilkie

The Tasmanian fish farming industry actually has a bright future. It employs quite a few people, it generates a lot of wealth for state. But it will only achieve that bright future, in fact it will only survive, if it’s genuinely put on a sustainable footing. And this unrestrained expansion of the industry is not sustainable. There’s a real risk it’ll go it’ll go the way of the forestry industry. The people who are trying to promote it are actually slowly killing it. The sort of things that have got to occur: the fish farms have got to be removed, as soon as humanly possible, from shallow inshore waters. The fact that Tassal has all of those pens just off North Bruny, it’s insane. They’ve got to get the farms out of shallow inshore waters, and they’ve got to go well offshore into deep water. And that is a stepping stone to the the ultimate remedy, which will be onshore closed-loop fish farms. Now we are told by industry leaders as early as this morning that it’s not as simple as just going straight on shore, because there are technical challenges, okay. But let’s at least go to the stepping stone of deep offshore waters as soon as we humanly can, while we perfect the closed loop and make it viable and efficient. Now, of course, all of this depends on government policy. I’m not here actually to simply criticise the fish companies because ultimately, you know what, they just do what they’re allowed to do by politicians. The problem here is a series of state governments and a series of dud state politicians who have not kept a close eye on the growth of the industry who fall over each other in both major parties, the Liberal and Labor Party, they can’t expand the industry quick enough. And in doing that they’re actually slowly killing the industry. We need the Labor Party and the Liberal Party to understand that if they really support the fish farming industry, then to put it on a sustainable footing. And that also includes effective oversight, you know, an EPA with real teeth, who is not beholden to the commercial interests of the fish company. But it’s there exactly in that name EPA, Environment Protection, that’s what we should be doing. Because we are seriously jeopardising Tasmania’s global reputation. You know, we’ve come out with coming out this side of the pandemic in pretty good shape, particularly with our global reputation. But it’s going to be trashed very, very quickly unless the industry is brought to heel.

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Peter George

Laura Kelly from Environmental Tasmania.

Laura Kelly

So, Environment Tasmania will be massively ramping up our consumer marketing campaign off the back of this work. It will be our job to take the message about the damage the salmon industry is doing to Tasmanians and to our marine environment, to the people that eat salmon in the domestic market, but following that, in export markets. We we regularly speak with celebrity chefs that influence the wholesale market, from Maggie Beer to Matt Moran to Matthew Evans. We’ve spoken to hundreds of thousands of consumers online in our digital marketing campaign, they are all utterly shocked to hear about the impacts of feedlot salmon farms on Tasmania. They’re shocked to hear about the amount of faeces and bacteria that their product is grown over. They’re shocked to hear about seals being shot in the face. They are shocked to hear about the antibiotic use, the flesh colouring, the drops in healthy omega three and the increase in fat. They’re shocked to hear about the environmental devastation, the harm to communities, the animal welfare breeches. And at the end of the day, the very poor quality product that this is producing. If the Tasmanian government, both the Liberal and Labor parties don’t stand up and act as government in relation to these industry, Tasmanian salmon sales will suffer and so will brand Tasmania

Peter George

Okay, thank you if there are any questions, but let me just tell you that if you go to The Monthly website from 930 onwards, you will see that not only are there extracts of this book, but Justin Kurzel, Australian film director of Snowtown and the True History of the Kelly Gang, has got a companion half hour documentary that goes with the Flanagan book. Both of them, once you watch both the idea that you’d ever eat Tasmanian salmon again, would be anathema to you.

Tasmanian Times

No one said the B word, but are you suggesting a consumer boycott of Tasmania salmon?

Peter George

No, we’re not suggesting it, we think that at this stage of the game, people will recognise the fact that as the word gets out, it’s something that they wouldn’t want to eat.

Journalist

Did the book teach you anything you didn’t know already about the industry?

Peter George

Yeah, look, you’ve really got to take this seriously. The industry is already saying that Flanagan is well known as a novelist, and that’s like writing him off. The truth of the matter is, Richard Flanagan is actually an extremely good Journalist. There are 280 references in this book, which is more than pages there are. And it’s brilliantly written. So it’s an extremely interesting read, very readable, but it’s full of information. I’ve been through the galley proofs with Richard, looking for fact checking. What it does, is it does what good journalism often does. It brings all this information into one book, and shows what a rogue industry the Tasmanian salmon industry is.

Journalist

How do you think the industry should react to these criticism?

Peter George

I think the industry’s got to get real. I mean, if they want to try and write this off as fiction, they ought to realise the fact that truth is often a lot stranger than fiction. And the truth of the salmon industry is that they need to actually face up to it, recognise that they are an industry that isn’t welcome in our coastal waters, and move like every other continent on earth, except for Australia, start the transition, however long it takes, but it shouldn’t take too long, take this transition to shore-based agriculture. It’s the obvious move.

Journalist

(inaudible) secret expansion?

Peter George

Well, the Tasmanian government and the industry want to expand the industry to $2 billion a year in a very short amount of time. It’s been done without the science, it’s done without looking back at the history, and it’s been done without looking at what the needs of communities are. I mean, the industry claims, you know, they’re bringing jobs here. If they move ashore, they’ll still be jobs. But let’s face it, if the industry stays in the water, there will be no jobs eventually, because it’s an unsustainable industry. It’s trashing the coastline. And people will stop buying it, the industry is going to implode. If they move ashore, then brand Tasmania will be protected.

Sheenagh Neill

I can add to that. The three-year salmon review has actually just concluded so they’ve actually, I believe the committee has actually finished but the findings haven’t been released because they’ve gone into a holding pattern. They know exactly where they’re going to do this expansion, but they’re not releasing it to the public until after the election. And that’s the problem. We won’t know where they’re going.

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Peter George

I do have something for you if you want it, which I’ll give you afterwards, which is what TAMP understands to be the no growth zones that are going to change so that the salmon industry can move into them.

Journalist

You say that people will stop buying it. Do you think people should be buying it now…to paraphrase that question again, just for the eyeline, should people be buying Tasmanian salmon now?

Peter George

People should not be buying Tasmanian salmon. The best way to pull this industry up and to make it recognise what a damaging industry it is, is when the consumer stops buying and when investors stop investing And that is likely to happen quite soon.

Lisa Gershwin

There’s peer reviewed research suggesting a link between salmon farming and mercury in the salmon. And between salmon farming hatcheries, and motor neuron disease, neurotoxins in our drinking water. And I was just curious what your view on those are.

Peter George

I’ll just refer you to the book. That’s science that I can’t answer.

Journalist

In terms of some of the parts of the northwest coast that Richard Flanagan was saying this morning might have fish farms put in them at Stanley, Boat Harbour, Table Cape, what sort of impact on the northwest coast would it have if fish farming expansion happened?

Peter George

Take a look at what the impact has been in the D’Entrecasteux Channel. Take a look at where I live in the Huon Valley, take a look at what is likely to be happening in Storm Bay. Take a look what just happened in recent weeks with all the deaths and the algae growing at Port Arthur in Long Bay. What resident of northern Tasmania anywhere near the coastline would want to see that happening to some of the most beautiful beach lines and coastlines in the world. I mean, this is an industry that has proved time and time again, as Essie Davis has said, it is an industry that’s proved time and time again it doesn’t care about its neighbours. It doesn’t care about marine life. It doesn’t care about the environment. It only cares about profits. And the politicians from the two major parties follow suit. They do what the salmon companies want them to do. I challenge you to go to talk to some of the bureaucrats in DPIPWE and (inaudible). They know where their bread is buttered. They’ve got to protect their jobs. They feel bullied by the salmon companies, and they feel intimidated by them. And they know that they can’t change anything.

Journalist

There’s been plenty of controversy around Tasmanian fish farming. And yet people still buy it. Do you think this book might be something that actually hurts the industry. Perhaps Essie could answer that question?

Essie Davis

One of the things that I think is really important is that what everyone thinks they’re getting is not what they’re getting. Not only not only are these fish fed bits of chicken, you can pretty much guarantee it’s not free range chicken. They’re also fed preservative to try to keep the omega threes alive in their in their bodies which are carcinogenic and don’t break down through the fish. So we are consuming not only dye that you can, you can literally pick what colour you want your salmon to be, we are consuming dye we’re consuming a fish that has been fed on animal products and from other things from all around the world, not even from here. And it’s not green or clean or healthy, it’s really bad for you. So it’s you know, it’s the battery hen of the sea. But not only that, no one can see the devastation because everyone’s just looks at, you know, what an incredible, environment we’re in, what beautiful ocean. Look underneath. Look at what is happening on the shore. And look … I picked up, I go collecting debris off my shore line area pretty much daily. I picked up a bucket that had ‘poison’ written on it for the fish farms. I just went Wow, I wonder how many buckets of that goes into the D’Entrecasteux Channel every month.

Mark Bishop

Can I add to that? When you ask about Tasmanian salmon, everyone’s falling into the trap. It’s not Tasmanian salmon. It’s farmed Atlantic salmon. It’s an introduced species. I have tourists coming into my fish shop asking to buy Tasmanian salmon. And I go ‘Tasmanian salmon, the orange stuff’ and they go ‘Yes’. I say go to Woolies. I only sell wild caught fish. That is a terrible travesty that the industry has hijacked the Tasmanian image for a farmed, battery product.

Tasmanian Times

Shareholder activism has been useful in some cases in the past in bringing large companies into line. So in the case of Huon Aquaculture and Tassal is is that something that TAMP and the aquaculture campaign might consider?

Peter George

I think we start off by simply proselytising and letting consumers know first of all what they’re consuming and what damage it’s doing to Tasmania. I think the next stage is to talk to the directors of the company and remind them of what their duties are. I think it’s a bit like the Dukaan Caves that the directors are allowing their companies to operate as they wish and out of control. And I think also we do need to go, in time, to the big investors, the superannuation funds, any of the big investors and let them know what their salmon is doing to our state. The unfortunate thing is, so many of the big investors are actually overseas. So a lot of profits for these Atlantic salmon companies are in fact going overseas. They’re not even coming to Australia let alone to Tasmanians.

Laura Kelly

I could also add to that. And based on our outreach with large shareholders, the story of what Tassal has done to Tasmania and the poor quality product that it produced led to Australian Ethical Investments divesting years ago from this company,. The only thing that has stopped Credit Suisse, Citibank, from advising their shareholders to divest is increased demand for the product. That increased demand is based on a marketing myth. No amount of spin is going to stop this truth from getting out and the pure disjunct between marketing and reality when it comes to these product creates a massive investment risk for this industry. We will be carrying this message to all major shareholders of large Tasmanian feedlot salmon companies. Thank you.

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Transcript of media conference with Greens Cassy O’Connor and Rosalie Woodruff, 22 April 2021.

Cassy O’Connor

We know that this industry is out of control from Macquarie Harbour to D’Entrecasteux Channel to Storm Bay. The fish farming industry in Tasmania for far too long has got its own way. While the EPA has looked the other way and both the Labor and Liberal parties have just cheered the industry on. So we’re going into an election where there are massive plans for salmon expansion around Tasmania’s marine waterways. And neither of the major party leaders are telling Tasmanians what those plans are. These plans will impact on not only the marine environment and coastal communities, they will do so for decades. So we are standing with these communities, coastal communities, as we always have to defend our marine environment and to bring this industry under control. It should be a land-based industry, we should have a truly independent Environment Protection Authority, and the government should be listening to scientists instead of removing them from the decision making process as they have with the marine farming review panels.

Rosalie Woodruff

The toxic regulation of fish farming in Tasmania has critically damaged marine waterways and harmed communities and they say the fish rots from its head. Well the head of this fish is in the executive building over here near Parliament House. The Liberal and the Labour parties are both responsible for egging on intensive farming that has damaged marine waterways and critically changed the coastal life and habitat in Tasmania. What we know is that the Liberal and Labour parties fully back the salmon industry and will not regulate it to protect the marine environment and to protect the lifestyles of local communities. So we as a party have launched our marine policy: fish farms have to move on land to closed loop systems. It’s the only enduring pathway for workers. It’s the only enduring pathway for marine sustainability. Guy Barnett has sat on a report from a secret committee that has been cooking up a division of Tasmania’s waterways with the salmon industry,. The industry and the government together the Liberal and Labor parties both support the massive expansion, again, of the salmon industry. The only way they can do that is to move into new public waterways. The report is finished and we understand that Guy Barnett is sitting on it until after the election. So people who are voting only next week, they need to know what is going to happen to their marine waterways. They need to know what the Liberal and Labor parties are doing about the expansion of salmon farming in Tasmania. Only on land and closed loop is an enduring pathway for the salmon industry in Tasmania.

Journalist

Richard Flanagan’s book raises serious allegations about bullying , enironmental damage, lax regulation. How would a good and sustainable industry and a good government react to the claims that are in this book?

Rosalie Woodruff

I haven’t read Richard Flanagan’s book yet. But there is no doubt that the salmon industry, backed by the Liberal and Labor parties, have been utterly deaf to communities and their concerns. They have taken no notice of our neighbors who are kept awake day and night by intensive salmon farming operations by awful changes to their environment. So unless the Liberal and Labor parties take full responsibility for regulating the industry, so that it is on land and closed loop, under planning law, then there is no possibility of having an enduring pathway for salmon in Tasmania.

Journalist

How is on land environmentally more sustainable?

Rosalie Woodruff

Well on land is the future of aquaculture everywhere. And we’re seeing countries all around the world moving their salmon farming and aquaculture industries, from intensive farming that’s polluting waterways, onto land based systems. Look, it’s not perfect, but we have a fantastic opportunity. in Tasmania, we have clean and green renewable power. On land, aquaculture does require an intensive electricity load, and we have clean, green electricity in Tasmania, we could have a brand advantage. If the Liberal and Labour parties regulated salmon, put it onto the planning law so that salmon farming, like all other farming goes through a development process that gives the community an opportunity to really engage.

Journalist

Broadly speaking, how would you describe the environmental debate and prominent environmental policies so far?

Rosalie Woodruff

Well, I think the name of this book says everything. There is a toxic failure by the Liberal and Labour parties to pay any attention to the concerns that Tasmanians have about the damage that’s been done to their beautiful places. We have wild places in Tasmania, marine and terrestrial, which are like nothing else on this planet. The Greens have been listening to communities, and we will continue to stand up for these wild places. We will continue to listen to people who more than anything, want them to be protected for future generations. And the Liberal and Labor parties have to understand that this is the only pathway to a sustainable and rich future for all of us.

Cassy O’Connor

I just wanted to add, I just wanted to add a bit to that. We’re going into an election campaign where neither the Liberal nor Labor parties has put out any environmental policy. There’s no word on climate from the Liberal or Labor parties, no change in forestry policy, no policy on protecting the marine environment. How can it be that a party that wants to govern Tasmania, this beautiful island, for the next four years doesn’t have a single environmental policy? We think that is a damning indictment on both the old parties.

Journalist

Wasn’t a criticism about the industry for a long time has been a lack of regulatory teeth, I suppose. How do you get a regulator that looks after the industry?

Rosalie Woodruff

Well, Tasmania’s EPA is not independent and Tasmanians are mistaken if they think that the actions by the EPA, are anything other than bound to the policies of the Liberal and Labor parties, or anyone who’s in government. The fact is Tasmania doesn’t have an independent EPA and the Greens would require that to occur. We can and must move EPA out from under the influence of the Minister for Primary Industries, and make the EPA utterly independent as it is in other states so that it can properly regulate the salmon industry. But at the end of the day, we must transition salmon from the marine environment onto land and in that situation, it would be under the Land Use Planning and Approvals Act.

Source: Tasmanian Times https://www.tasmaniantimes.com/2021/04/stop-eating-tasmanian-salmon/#utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=stop-eating-tasmanian-salmon

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