Salmon giant Tassal silent on mass death of fish near Port Arthur | Ralph-Lauren

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Tasmanian aquaculture giant Tassal has reported a sizeable salmon mortality event affecting its Long Bay lease near Port Arthur in the state’s south but is refusing to detail the scale or cause of the deaths.

Tasmania’s Environment Protection Authority has confirmed Tassal notified it of increased mortality at Long Bay across five individual cages earlier this month.

Mass salmon mortality events must be reported if deaths are more than 0.25 per cent of salmon contained in a single cage per day for three consecutive days.

Tassal responded to the ABC by stating it values “transparency and facts,” but did not answer specific questions on the cause of the salmon deaths, the amount of salmon lost in the event, or the dates it occurred.

Tassal also did not provide details on how it was addressing the problem, or whether it had since been resolved.

“Fish losses are reported to our regulators as required in our licence conditions,” the company’s statement said.

Tassal salmon farm cages at Long Bay, Tasmania
Fish deaths have been reported in five pens.(Supplied)

EPA director Wes Ford was notified of the incident by Tassal last Sunday, but said the salmon producer was not required to report the number of fish involved in the mortality event.

The EPA said Tassal had provided it with information about the likely cause of the increased mortality, but also declined to provide that information to the ABC.

Factors that could cause mass salmon deaths include disease or environmental conditions, such as problems with oxygen or temperature.

Locals call for more transparency

Local resident Trish Baily, who is a member of Tasman Peninsula Marine Protection, said she wanted more transparency from both Tassal and the EPA when it comes to mass mortality.

Ms Baily said activity at the lease site increased significantly in the week before the report was made to the EPA.

“My concerns are, first of all, that we have to hear on the grapevine, and that’s often coming from people concerned within the community,” she said.

Salmon in a fish farm enclosure, seen from underwater
The company says fish deaths are reported, as required, to the EPA.(Supplied: Tassal)

In January 2018, Tassal played down a mass fish death at its Okehampton Bay lease further north along Tasmania’s east coast, that had occurred the previous month.

About 30,000 salmon died in that event, 3 per cent of its juvenile stock.

In 2017, salmon giant Tassal reintroduced fish pens to the 15-hectare Long Bay lease after it had gone unused for about a decade.

Two years later, Port Arthur locals and scientist Christine Coughanowr raised concerns about an influx of slimy, slippery, odorous algae blanketing Long Bay, in the belief it was being caused by Tassal’s Long Bay operations.

Scientists from the University of Tasmania’s Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS) have been surveying the condition of rocky reef and seagrass habitat near Long Bay over the past couple of months, after being asked to investigate by government authorities.


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