The Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has directed Tassal to fully de-stock a non-compliant Macquarie Harbour salmon farming lease until the marine environment at the site has sufficiently recovered.
EPA Director, Mr Wes Ford made the direction to Tassal to fully de-stock its Franklin lease (number 266), one of several of the company’s Macquarie Harbour leases, by 28 February 2017. The direction was made in November 2016, following the Director’s review of the Spring 2016 compliance monitoring data, which found there were significant visible impacts at the 35 metre compliance points from the lease boundary and that immediate management action was required.
"The primary purpose of my direction is to ensure that lease 266 is de-stocked as soon as possible to reduce the ongoing impacts from excess feed and faecal material being deposited on the sea bed," said Mr Ford.
"It will not be eligible for re-stocking until the marine ecology has recovered to an appropriate level," he said.
This was the first review conducted by the Director since the environmental regulation of Tasmanian salmon farming was transferred to the EPA on 1 July 2016. Subsequently, the CEO of Tassal, Mr Mark Ryan, advised the Director of the company’s inability to comply with the 28 February deadline due to a combination of logistical, staffing and safety reasons, and requested a six week extension of the timeframe.
Mr Ford said that although lease 266 remains non-compliant with the licence conditions, he did not have enough information to indicate that the proposed delay in harvesting would significantly affect any underlying impacts on the harbour or neighbouring leases.
"On balance, I’ve decided it would not be appropriate for me to initiate further compliance measures against the company’s lease operation until after 15 April 2017," said Mr Ford.
"I will make a further assessment after receiving Tassal’s submission of its January 2017 benthic compliance data," he said.
"The company is aware that one of the consequences of the delay in de-stocking the lease may be a longer period of time before the lease returns to compliance and can be re-stocked.
"I am satisfied with the approach taken by Tassal in advising me at the earliest opportunity of the need to extend the timeframe and the reasoning given," he said.
Mr Ford said that he is committed to transparent decision making and had notified Tassal of his intention to make the relevant communications between himself and the company’s CEO available to the public.
Copies of the letter to the EPA Director from the CEO of Tassal on 25 November 2016, which provides an explanation of the company’s reasons for seeking a timeframe extension; an email letter on 9 February 2017, containing an updated harvest schedule for lease 266; and the letter from the EPA Director to the CEO of Tassal on 20 February 2016 in response to the request for a timeframe extension are available here:
Tassal's letter to EPA, 25 November 2016 re Macquarie Harbour salmon lease
Tassal's letter to EPA, 9 February 2017 re Macquarie Harbour harvest
EPA's letter to Tassal, 20 Feb 2017 re de-stocking extension