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Macquarie Harbour Management

​​​​​​​​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 www.dpipwe.tas.gov.au/sea-fishing-aquaculture/marine-farming-aquaculture

Compliance Monitoring

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 here.

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

The 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. 

Final Biomass Determination, May 2017

The Director, Environment Protection Authority, has advised Huon Aquaculture, Tassal and Petuna that the biomass for Macquarie Harbour will be set at 12,000 tonnes, or 13 tonnes per hectare for the period from 31 May 2017 until 31 May 2018. Tassal has requested approval to grow their 2016 year class fish through to market size, resulting in around 4,000 tonnes of additional salmon being in the Harbour in January 2018. Authority has been given subject to Tassal installing an approved waste collection system to capture waste from 1.5 tonnes of fish for each tonne of salmon exceeding the 13 tonnes per hectare limit. This will mean that in January 2018 Tassal will be capturing fish waste from 6,000 tonnes of salmon, preventing it settling on the harbour floor.

Below are copies of the advice to the companies, the submissions provided against the draft determinations issued on 5 May 2017 and the Tassal draft environmental management plan for the waste collection system.

  1. Letter from EPA to Tassal
  2. Letter from EPA to Huon
  3. Letter from EPA to Petuna
  4. EPA Director’s statement
  5. Tassal redacted submission provided against draft determinations and covering letter
  6. Huon redacted submission provided against draft determinations and covering letter
  7. Petuna redacted submission provided against draft determinations and covering letter

Tassal Determinations Reissued, 6 June 2017

On Tuesday 6 June, the EPA Director reissued the biomass determinations provided to Tassal for Macquarie Harbour for the period from 1 June 2017 to 31 May 2018 to avoid any doubt as to their intent. This follows the Director's 5 May correspondence to Tassal, which stated that the draft biomass determinations of 13 tonnes per hectare was to be based on a combined total lease area of 280 hectares for the lease numbers 214, 219 and 266. In order to make the legal instrument quite clear in this regard, it has been reissued and is provided below along with the Director's statement of reasons for the reissue:​

Tassal 2017 Reissued Determinations, Macquarie Harbour

Statement of Reasons for Tassal determination reissue, 6 June 2017

Waste Capture System Trial

 On 6 June 2017, the EPA Director approved Tassal undertaking a trial of five (5) waste collection units on pens within the area of lease numbers 219 and 214 over the four week period commencing 5 June 2017. The EPA Approval for Waste Capture Trial, Macquarie Harbour has been issued under the existing management controls of the Macquarie Harbour Marine Farming Development Plan. A copy of the instrument is provided here along with the requirements for the waste capture trial, monitoring and reporting. The purpose of the trial is to test the design of the units and the systems to collect and remove the waste from the harbour. The waste will be taken ashore and treated prior to disposal, and this will be assessed and approved under section 44 of the Environmental Management and Pollution Control Act 1994, and managed via and Environment Protection Notice.


Waste Capture System Approval, June 2017

On 30 June 2017, the EPA Director approved the continuation of Tassal's proposed Waste Capture Sytem (WCS), issuing an Approval instrument and an Environment Protection Notice (EPN) for Tassal's fish waste collection in Macquarie Harbour. Under the EPN, Tassal is required to undertake a range of monitoring and reporting, including benthic fauna and dissolved oxygen, and parameters to measure the efficacy of the WCS. Tassal's report on the WCS trial and its Environmental Management Plan (EMP) for the system's operation are provided below, along with copies of the EPN, the Director's cover letter and approval instrument.

EPA Director's Cover Letter, dated 30 June 2017

EPA's Environment Protection Notice No 9702/1

EPA's WCS Approval Instrument

Tassal's Macquarie Harbour WCS Trial Report, June 2017

Tassal's Environmental Management Plan WCS, June 2017

Waste Capture System Monitoring

The monitoring of the Macquarie Harbour WCS is required under EPN No 9702/1 (attached above). This covers monitoring surveys of water quality (including dissolved oxygen), WCS liner integrity and Macquarie Harbour benthic conditions. Tassal is required to summarise its monitoring in a monthly report to the EPA. These monthly reports are available to the public, being published on Tassal's website at www.tassal.com.au/community-news/macquarie-harbour-waste-capture-system-monthly-report-10-08-17/

May 2017 Compliance Monitoring Results

The May 2017 round of regular benthic monitoring undertaken by the three salmon companies in Macquarie Harbour has now been assessed. A summary table of the May 2017 information collected by the companies at 35 metre compliance survey points at various lease sites is provided in the Macquarie Harbour Lease Boundary Compliance Summary, May 2017. The May benthic surveys indicated improved compliance across the Harbour. Only one lease recorded non-compliances (down from six leases in January 2017 compliance survey) with a reduction in non-compliant survey points at that lease from nine to four. Petuna has discussed on-going management responses with the EPA to maintain progress towards full lease compliance. The next benthic compliance survey is scheduled for September 2017.

Approval for Waste Treatment, October 2017

On 20 September 2017, Tassal provided the EPA with an Environmental Management Plan (EMP) detailing the proposal to treat fish farm waste on Macquarie Harbour on board the vessel Wallaby. On 3 October 2017, the EPA Director provided Tassal with approval to undertake the treatment of fish waste sourced from the operation of its WCS in Macquarie Harbour, issuing an Approval instrument and an Environment Protection Notice (EPN). The EPN specifies the requirements and conditions to regulate the treatment of fish farm waste on Macquarie Harbour, including reporting and monitoring of fish waste collection. Copies of the EMP (redacted), EPN, and the Director's cover letter and approval instrument are provided below.​​

Signed Approval Instrument, EPA Director, 3 October 2017

EPN 9760-1 Waste Treatment by Tassal, Macquarie Harbour

Signed Cover Letter by EPA Director, 3 October 2017


EMP Waste Management, Tassal, Macquarie Harbour (redacted)





Salmon Regulation Section
134 Macquarie Street
Hobart TAS 7000
Phone: 03 6165 4599
Fax: 03 6173 0254