Past monitoring review
Data collected by DPIPWE since 2014 has confirmed a decline in dissolved oxygen (DO) levels in the bottom waters of Macquarie Harbour, while routine benthic monitoring since 2013 has indicated an increase in the abundance and distribution of opportunistic polychaetes. A range of actions have been undertaken in response to the monitoring, including immediately beginning targeted research and increasing levels of environmental monitoring in the Harbour on a spatial and temporal scale. Copies of these reports are available from the DPIPWE website at
Marine Farming Licence Conditions relating to environmental management of fish farming in Macquarie Harbour require compliance with environmental standards. One requirement is that there must be no significant visual impacts at, or extending beyond, 35 metres from the boundary of the lease area. Visual impacts from farming outside of marine farm lease areas are monitored by remotely operated vehicles with cameras surveying for benthic bacterial mats (Beggiatoa spp.) at these compliance points around lease areas 35 m from the boundary.
In November 2016, the EPA completed its first assessment of monitoring data since the Tasmanian Government's announcement that environmental regulation would be transferred to the EPA on 1 July 2016. The benthic monitoring undertaken by the companies is validated against independent research undertaken by the Institute of Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS), research commissioned by the companies themselves, and water quality monitoring data collected by the EPA, industry, IMAS, and the CSIRO through separate monitoring programs.
September 2016 Compliance Monitoring Results
The Spring 2016 round of regular benthic monitoring undertaken by the three salmon companies in Macquarie Harbour was assessed by the EPA. The benthic surveys indicated non-compliance at several of the lease sites, and water quality monitoring showed that the low levels of dissolved oxygen in the deeper parts of the Harbour continued for much of the year, reaching a record low. A summary table of the September 2016 information collected by the companies at 35 metre compliance survey points at various lease sites, is attached in the
Macquarie Harbour Lease Boundary Compliance Summary, September 2016.
Notice of Management Determination, January 2017
The EPA Director issued a Notice of Determination on 16 January 2017, which lowered the maximum permissable biomass to 14,000 tonnes of finfish in Macquarie Harbour for the period from 14 February to 30 April 2017 and made a new set of determinations for the three salmon companies. These determinations reduced the biomass limit for the Harbour below the biomass cap for 2013 of 15,437 tonnes, and were based on a range of information, including a review of the most recent research findings provided by the Institute of Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS). They were set in response to environmental indicators, including: very low levels of dissolved oxygen (DO) in the deeper waters of Macquarie Harbour; the current extent of
Beggiatoa species in the Harbour, and its increase over the past six months; and a decline in benthic fauna in the vicinity of the marine farms. In addition, management controls were aimed at reducing the impact of nutrient waste on the benthic environment in proximity to the non-compliant sites; and required non-compliant areas to be fallowed and re-assessed before restocking.
The Director deferred making the biomass determination for the period from 1 May 2017 to 30 April 2020 until the January 2017 benthic sampling data was reviewed after further consultation with the companies. The determinations, along with the letters sent to the three companies operating in the harbour, can be viewed
IMAS Technical Report January 2017
The attached Institute of Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS) Technical Report, Environmental Research in Macquarie Harbour - Interim Synopsis of Benthic and Water Column Conditions January 2017, was prepared by Dr Jeff Ross and Associate Professor Catriona MacLeod at the EPA Director’s request in November 2016. The three salmon companies were advised that this report would be made publicly available as soon as it had been finalised and cleared by the University of Tasmania (UTAS). The report is both comprehensive and technical, and before being made publicly available, was subject to a UTAS internal review process that ensures reports and publications meet appropriate research and academic standards. In addition, the report references externally funded research projects and therefore other research organisations needed to sign off on certain aspects of the report. These are important steps in the preparation of scientific material, and take time to complete. This report forms part of the information that the Director considered when making the biomass determination for the period from 14 February to 30 April 2017.
Download a copy of the IMAS Technical Report on Macquarie Harbour Condition here.
January 2017 Compliance Monitoring Results
The Summer 2017 round of regular benthic monitoring undertaken by the three salmon companies in Macquarie Harbour has now been assessed. A summary table of the January 2017 information collected by the companies at 35 metre compliance survey points at various lease sites is attached in the
Macquarie Harbour Lease Boundary Compliance Summary, January 2017. The January benthic surveys indicated worsening non-compliance at six of the ten lease sites since the September 2016 Compliance Survey. The EPA has required salmon companies to undertake a range of management responses to address these non-compliances. Advice received from several companies is that additional benthic surveys undertaken since January indicate an improvement in environmental conditions around the leases. The next benthic compliance survey is scheduled for May 2017.
Draft Macquarie Harbour Nutrient Review, May 2017
The Mount Lyell Remediation Research and Development Program, a long term monitoring program, was established in 1995. The attached internal draf EPA report, May 2017 has reviewed the nutrient data from 2013 onwards, and also includes those sites where there is historic data for the period 1995 to 1997. The Review found that some total and dissolved nutrient levels have increased in Macquarie Harbour when considering historic and current water quality data. The levels observed in the central Harbour infer that additional nutrient inputs other than those entering from the Gordon River or marine waters, are occurring. IMAS is undertaking several Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (FRDC) programs to assess biological impacts, as are the individual companies as part of compliance requirements and adaptive management framework.
Download a copy of the
Macquarie Harbour 2013-2016 Nutrient Review, Internal Draft EPA Report, May 2017 here.
Macquarie Harbour WHA Environmental Status Report, May 2017
Approximately one third of the area of Macquarie Harbour is located within the boundary of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area (TWWHA). With the expansion of marine farming in Macquarie Harbour there has been an increase in environmental monitoring under marine farm licence requirements and research studies in response to deterioration in the environmental condition of the Harbour. A Report on the recent monitoring and research findings relevant to the WHA has been prepared to support the decision making process of the EPA Director, and to provide advice to the Minister for Parks, Environment and Heritage about impacts on the WHA.
Download a copy of the
Macquarie Harbour Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area Environmental Status Report, May 2017 here.
Draft Biomass Determinations, May 2017
The EPA Director advised the salmon companies on 5 May 2017 that he had completed his evaluation of the most recent monitoring data for Macquarie Harbour, and has made his latest determinations for the maximum permissible finfish biomass, lowering the total from the current 14,000 to 12,000 tonnes for the period 1 June 2017 to 30 April 2018. The determination of 12,000 tonnes is considered necessary to ensure the Harbour can recover to a point where it can sustainably manage marine farming into the long term. In addition to lowering the biomass maxiumum limit, a number of other future management changes are being considered. These include moving to a lease by lease management framework with a set of environmental performance measures for each lease within the Harbour. Some of the companies are also exploring fish waste collection systems and the EPA will be working with them to develop and assess applications for their approval.
The Director's letter to the salmon companies as well as the accompanying Draft Statement of Reasons, can be viewed here, along with the three salmon companies' submissions. The redactions in these submissions have been at the companies' requests, and do not reflect the Director's view of the commercial in confidence nature of the material. Download copies of the documents here:
EPA Director's Letter to salmon companies, dated 5 May 2017
EPA Director's Draft Statement of Reasons for Draft Determination
Huon - MH Submission (Redacted) - Jan 2017
Huon - MH Submission with Appendix (Redacted) - Jan 2017
Huon - MH Submission (Final for Distribution) - April 2017
Petuna - MH Submission with Stocking Plan (Redacted) - Nov 2016
Petuna - MH Submission with Attachments (Redacted) - Mar 2017
Tassal - MH Submission (Redacted) - Dec 2016
Tassal - MH Submission (Redacted) - Jan 2017
Tassal - MH Submission with Environmental & Farmed Stock Management (Redacted) - Apr 2017
IMAS Environmental Research Progress Report May 2017
May 2017 Progress Report, Environmental Research in Macquarie Harbour, produced by IMAS, University of Tasmania, provides an update on the status of dissolved oxygen and bethic conditions in Macquarie Harbour. It follows on from the results reported in the IMAS January 2017 Report and presents the results and preliminary interpretation of oxygen monitoring data up until the end of March 2017, and a repeat survey of benthic communities in Jan-Feb 2017.
Salmon farming waste capture system guidelines
The EPA has issued Guidelines for
Salmonid Aquaculture Waste Capture Systems, Macquarie Harbour, May 2017 for the preparation of an Environmental Management Plan (EMP) for the proposed under-pen waste capture sytems for salmonid aquaculture in the Harbour. The guidelines cover information required from the proponent on the proposed fish waste collection system, including the objective, design, location and trial timeframes; the environmental and project risks, and risk management; the monitoring, testing, reporting and consultation; and other information on biosecurity, fish health and social aspects.
Salmon Regulation Section
134 Macquarie Street
Hobart TAS 7000
Phone: 03 6165 4599
Fax: 03 6173 0254