The Tasmanian Alliance for Marine Protection is calling on the government and fish farming industry to bring salmon farms back onshore after the release of documents which raise concerns about approvals for farms in Storm Bay.
The documents, released through the Right to Information process, show the Marine Farming Planning Review panel approved the development of farms in Storm Bay despite advice showing it would be impossible to safeguard against disease transmission.
"It is not possible to separate leases sufficiently to provide a reliable barrier against spread of a major diseases in the water column," biosecurity advice to the panel reads.
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Tasmania's three largest fish-farming companies are all expanding their operations in Storm Bay after receiving approval from the panel in 2019.
But documents show the decision was made with only three sitting members of the panel when a quorum of five was needed. The quorum was reached by having two members whose terms had expired sit in on the meeting.
TAMP co-chair Peter George said it is no surprise a government body set up to facilitate the fish-farming industry's expansion cut corners.
"From start to finish, the process was a sham - the hearings of the Marine Farming Planning Review Panel gave short shrift to any organisation or individual raising concerns," he said.
"The process was such a farce that the panel's two respected marine scientists resigned in protest and the government then tried to hide their reasons.
"Now, without proper scientific baselines being established, Storm Bay faces the same potential future that has already devastated Macquarie Harbour, the D'Entrecasteaux Channel, the Huon River and estuary."
Mr George said no one is asking for this change to happen overnight. He said they would like to see processes in place for the transition to take place over the next decade.
A Huon Aquaculture spokesperson said 100 per cent land-based salmon farming could be an exciting prospect but wasn't financially viable and had sustainability drawbacks.
The spokesperson said if land-based farming became commercially viable it would make sense to establish them closer to markets on the mainland.
"Unlike other states in Australia, Tasmania does not allow the discharge of salt/saltwater from the land to the ocean and as salmon need to spend part of their lifecycle in saltwater, this restricts how long we can farm them on land," the spokesperson said.
"The natural resources - land, electricity and water - required to house enough facilities to hypothetically cease sea-based operations is not feasible nor is it financially viable."
Petuna chief executive officer Ruben Alvarez said the company was researching to understand the benefits of onshore fish-farms.
"However, like any form of farming, what works well in one part of the world might not in another and so we must consider any proposals in the Tasmanian context," he said.
"We take our advice from industry experts, not environmental groups."
He said the company would make sure all biosecurity measures were in place when it is operational in Storm Bay.
"Petuna takes biosecurity extremely seriously, not only because it is in our best commercial interest to do so, but also because we are passionate about protecting the natural environments in which we operate to ensure we remain a sustainable industry for years to come," Mr Alvarez said.
"Once operational in Storm Bay, Petuna will ensure the Storm Bay management controls for the marine farming license in relation to biosecurity are met."
"I am advised that the Marine Farming Planning Review Panel was appropriately constituted and had the necessary expertise on the Review Panel at the time recommendations on all the Storm Bay proposals were made," he said.
"The Panel sought expert advice on biosecurity management from the Chief Veterinary Officer, industry veterinarians and an overseas epidemiologist. The Panel modified Plans following consideration of this advice.
"The Storm Bay plans include specific controls to allow for appropriate contemporary and future biosecurity arrangements to be imposed by Government."
Tassal decline to comment.
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