Salmon fight between Huon, government will go to trial in 2018

Huon Aquaculture’s legal battle against the state government and its two main competitors will head to trial in the Federal Court in March.

The company launched proceedings against the government in February, claiming it had failed in its environmental protection obligations over Macquarie Harbour by allowing salmon to be farmed in its waters in greater amounts that it could handle.

Huon has lodged with the court a number of reports, including three from the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, which suggest degradation in the World Heritage-listed area and dissolved oxygen levels caused by overstocking in the harbour. The January IMAS study in particular suggested that oxygen levels were so low that marine life was struggling to survive.

Respondents to Huon’s claim, including competitors Tassal and Petuna, have argued that these reports could be prejudicial in the trial.

Justice Duncan Kerr ruled that the data within the reports may be used but not the reports themselves due to the opinions expressed within them.

This was the case for other reports tendered to support Huon’s assertions including a report from the Macquarie Harbour Dissolved Oxygen Working Group, a Cawthron Institute Report, and two notices of determination issued by the Environmental Protection Authority.

Huon’s claim began against the state government but they dragged Tassal into the court case arguing the company was in breach of a biomass determination made by the EPA in June.

The cap was reduced to 12,000 tonnes but Tassal were permitted to farm more salmon if it submitted to using waste capturing methods.