The Tasmanian Greens have accused the state government of providing "cover" for a major salmon company by withholding data on permits to protect its operations from threatened seal species.
New data released under right to information laws show a total of 76 aquaculture employees were issued seal deterrent permits between June 26, 2018 and August 6 this year.
The companies use a range of methods to protect both their operations and staff from the threatened seal species, including non-lethal beanbag bullets and underwater explosives called crackers, but require a permit from the the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment.
Of the 76 permits issued, Huon Aquaculture received 25 and Petuna 4. The name of a third company - and the number of permits issued to it - was redacted.
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"We assume Tassal had been issued the remaining 48 permits," Greens environment spokesperson Rosalie Woodruff said. "It's difficult to understand why the government has provided cover to a company that has historically had much worse seal management practices."
"The impact on wildlife from fish farming operations shouldn't be hidden. The public have a right to know."
A Tassal spokesperson did not confirm if the redacted company data belonged to them.
They said the use of deterrents had decreased in recent years due to the rollout of seal-proof infrastructure and the company was committed to "zero harm" programs.
"[The] industry has a duty of care to provide a safe work environment for its people and the welfare of stock."
A total of 24,528 crackers and 1,533 beanbags were used during the period, along with 20 attempts - successful or otherwise - to sedate the seals, the data shows. Two seal-related injuries were reported to the department.
A Huon Aquaculture spokesperson said the deterrents were a last resort and the company continue to examine practices that can "protect staff, fish and seals".
A DPIPWE spokesperson did not answer a question about why information about the third company was redacted. The spokesperson said the methods comprise part of its seal management framework which aims to "minimise the risk to farm workers while maintaining seal welfare".
"The Department also reviews and works with industry to identify and develop new deterrent methods and options as appropriate."
No application for a permit was rejected by DPIPWE during the period. Though if a potential applicant is deemed unsuitable for a permit - due to a conviction, inability to supply a firearms licence or evidence of employment with an aquaculture company - the process is not commenced.
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