Best-selling author Richard Flanagan launched a thermonuclear weapon at Tasmania's salmon farming industry in late April 2021. This book, Toxic: The Rotting Underbelly of the Tasmanian Salmon Industry, went into its fourth printing in its first week! Speaking as a writer myself, let me just say, Wowza!
As a former CSIRO research scientist with 29 years’ experience working on jellyfish, I have had a front row seat to the growing and pains of the salmon industry. Jellyfish appear to be the inevitable result of unrestrained salmon farming. My work has kept me involved with salmon industries on three continents, especially here in Tasmania, over the last 22 years.
I'm planning to run for the Tasmanian Legislative Council in May 2024 on a salmon reform platform. Until then, I am hard at work sciencing the heck out of what's going on with this fishy industry, and more importantly, how to make it better. Better for the environment where food for human consumption is grown. Better for the other organisms who have no voice. Better for the long-term sustainability of the jobs reliant on the salmon industry. Better for Tasmania.
What do I mean by salmon reform?
- Sustainability: Sustainability has three key elements: economic viability, environmental impact and social license. The current business model of Tasmania's salmon farming industry is woefully failing on both its environmental stewardship and social license, which puts its economic viability in real jeopardy. And this puts jobs and our economy in jeopardy. The salmon industry must be held to account.
- Accountability: Many legislative instruments apply to Tasmania's salmon farming industry... except that they don't. For example, the Marine Farming Planning Act 1995 (Tas), with the purpose and objectives centred around achieving well-planned sustainable development of marine farming activities, includes integrating marine farming activities with other marine uses; minimising any adverse impact of marine farming activities; and take account of the community's right to have an interest in those activities. From the current state of disharmony with other marine uses, adverse ecosystem and native species impact, and community outrage, it would be fanciful to pretend like these are occurring. Another example is the Living Marine Resources Management Act 1995 (Tas), with the purpose and objectives to achieve sustainable development of living marine resources, seeks to increase the community’s understanding of ecosystem integrity, provide and maintain sustainability of living marine resources, and take into account the community’s needs and interests with respect to these resources. Again, even a casual glance at community views makes instantly clear that this Act is failing with the salmon industry. Yet another example is the Environmental Management and Pollution Control Act 1994 (Tas), which defines environmental harm as any adverse effect on the environment and includes an environmental nuisance. It further states that environmental harm is to be treated as serious harm if it involves an actual adverse effect on the health or safety of human beings – or on the environment – that is of a high impact or is on a wide scale. And yet, many people are suffering headaches, sleep deprivation, and psychiatric illness as a result of unrelenting noise and lights from salmon farming, the seabed is suffering from dead zones under the salmon cages, citizens are suffering odour problems associated with rotting and toxic algae, and native species are confronted with various types of pollution. Moreover, there are emerging concerns that blue-green algae associated with inland hatcheries may be releasing a neurotoxin into our drinking water supply that is strongly associated outside Tasmania with Motor Neurone Disease. And yet still another example is the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Commonwealth), which defines the principles of ecologically sustainable development as, in part, decision‑making that integrates both long‑term and short‑term economic, environmental, social and equitable considerations. It says that for threats of serious or irreversible environmental damage the precautionary principle should be used. It says that the principle of inter‑generational equity should be applied, in that the present generation should ensure that the health, diversity and productivity of the environment is maintained or enhanced for the benefit of future generations. It also says that the conservation of biological diversity and ecological integrity should be a fundamental consideration in decision‑making. And yet, up to 40,000 underwater bombs a year are detonated as a deterrent to seals, which also interfere with native dolphins’ sound-based orientation system, and habitats of the critically endangered handfish are threatened by algae. The salmon industry must be held to account.
- Do the right thing: The Roman philosopher Marcus Aurelius is credited with having said, “If it is not right do not do it; if it is not true do not say it.” We all know right from wrong. Once upon a time it may have been ok, at least in Tasmania, to destroy our landscapes and seascapes in the pursuit of profit. But I say no! They must be held to account!
I'm Dr Lisa Gershwin, and I am going to run for Parliament in 2024. If you'd like to help out with my campaign, or with getting the word out about salmon reform, gimme a hoy.