The EPA has been responsible for environmental management of Tasmania's finfish farming industry since 2016. Prior to 2016, various parts of the Department of Natural Resources and Environment Tasmania (NRE Tas), Inland Fisheries Service and local government were responsible for environmental management of finfish farming.
Finfish Farming Environmental Regulation Act FAQs (PDF 153Kb)
Potential Environmental Effects
Environmental impacts from land-based and marine based finfish farms may vary significantly, depending on factors relating to both the operation (size, style, technology) and the surrounding environment (hydrology, water quality, local ecology, climate).
Water quality impacts from land based finfish farms can occur from nutrients from feed and fish metabolic waste that is present in the farm discharge if effluent treatment is inadequate. Excess nutrients can cause impacts such as increased algal growth and changes to instream macroinvertebrate communities. They also contribute to catchment nutrient loads which can impact downstream habitats and including estuaries.
Environmental impacts of marine based finfish farming include changes to the sea floor habitat as a direct result of deposition of fish farm waste (ie fish food and faeces) at the lease sites. Impacts of these wastes on the marine environment include organic enrichment of soft sediment habitats and modification of hard substrate habitats. In addition, fish farming wastes can also impact the structure and functioning of vulnerable/sensitive habitats that are important habitats/refuges and spawning/nursery grounds for a variety of other marine organisms.
Dissolved nutrients can result in changes to water chemistry such as lowered dissolved oxygen. Dissolved farming nutrients can also stimulate primary productivity (e.g. algal growth), which in excess may lead to eutrophication and the outbreak of algal blooms. In such circumstances, algal blooms can modify water bodies leading to the deterioration of water quality, through increased turbidity, reduced ecosystem function and services. Depending on the algal species, harmful algal blooms (HABs) along the coast have the potential to be physically harmful to finfish species resulting in gill irritation, damage and lesions. Elevated nutrients may occur at short distances from finfish cages, which may have an influence on algal community structure on nearby reefs (< 100 m from fish farms), where nutrient indicator algal species can flourish.
Another type of potential impact from finfish farming activities is noise and light. Noise can potentially impact on residential amenity.
Anyone operating a marine or land based finfish farm must hold an environmental licence. Environmental licences contain conditions that outline environmental monitoring requirements and performance standards for the various type of activities undertaken at marine and land-based finfish farms.
Links are provided below to application forms required for new environmental licences or for the transfer or renewal of current environmental licences.
Environmental Licence Application Form (PDF 192Kb)
Environmental Licence Renewal Application Form (PDF 191Kb)
Environmental Licence Transfer Form (DOCX 143Kb) or Environmental Licence Transfer Form (PDF 205Kb)
Marine Based Finfish Farms – general monitoring requirements
A number of parameters are monitored by the industry and regulated by government, and a range of adaptive management controls are applied in response to the scientific modelling and regular monitoring.
The environmental licence conditions require the companies to undertake regular underwater video surveys of the seafloor to monitor impacts associated with farming salmon at all farm sites in the State. There are a range of controls relating to the management of lease areas and to respond to any significant visual impact under net pens and at defined compliance points located 35 metres from the lease boundary.
Broadscale Environmental Monitoring Programs (BEMPs) are also in place in a number of marine farming regions. The objective of BEMPs is to document broadscale spatial and temporal trends for key environmental parameters, allowing assessment of the environmental effects of finfish aquaculture in the region.
Components of the BEMPs can include:
- Monthly water quality sampling
- Annual/bi-annual surveys for seafloor fauna and chemistry, seagrass and deep and inshore reef
- Annual BEMP reports prepared each year that detail all environmental monitoring undertaken and the results of that monitoring
Annual Environmental Review reports are prepared each year by licence holders in some regions. These reports summarise all environmental monitoring undertaken and performance against environmental licence compliance standards for the preceding year.
Noise monitoring surveys can be required of industry in response to public complaints about marine based finfish farming activities. EPA also conducts independent noise monitoring.
Land Based Finfish Farms – general monitoring requirements
The environmental licence conditions for land-based fish farms are being progressively updated by the EPA. All large farms that discharge to surface waters will be required to undertake regular water quality monitoring of physicochemical parameters such as dissolved oxygen, suspended solids and total and dissolved nutrients for farm intake waters and effluent discharges. Instream biological monitoring of algae and macroinvertebrate communities for waterways that receive effluent discharges may also be required. Record keeping and reporting for stocking biomass, waste volumes and waste disposal processes will also be required.
Review of Regulatory Requirements for Marine Based Salmonid Aquaculture
The Tasmanian Government has set an ambitious goal in its Sustainable Industry Growth Plan for the Salmon Industry to have the 'most environmentally sustainable salmon industry in the world'.
In support of this goal, the EPA undertook a review of international environmental management frameworks for salmonid farming with a focus on how the Tasmanian environmental management framework compares with international jurisdictions. The findings of the review provided the basis for the first Tasmanian Salmon Industry Scorecard, comparing the industry against current international practice for environmental monitoring.
The EPA’s review document was peer-reviewed by New Zealand’s Cawthron Institute and comments received have been addressed in the final document.
The information contained within this finalised review document has been made available to NRE Tas to support the development of the proposed Environmental Standard for Marine Finfish Farming.
International Review of BEMPs
To further support the Tasmanian Government's goal, the EPA commissioned reviews of the current Broadscale Environmental Monitoring Programs (BEMPs) operating in the D'Entrecasteaux Channel and Huon River, Storm Bay and Macquarie Harbour. The comprehensive reviews have been undertaken by Professors Kenny Black and Paul Tett, from the Scottish Association of Marine Sciences in the UK. Both Professors Black and Tett are world-leading experts on the environmental interactions of aquaculture.
For more information see the International Review of BEMPs page.