Today’s report from the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS) saying escaped salmon caused 'minimal’ ecological impact is a let-off which will see Huon Aquaculture go scot-free for a major environmental invasion, according to Bob Brown Foundation’s Fish Farms and Marine Campaigner Rebecca Howarth.
The IMAS report, titled 'Fishing for Atlantic salmon: inferences about dispersal, survival and ecological impacts following two large-scale escape events', surveyed a minority of recreational fishers who caught escaped salmon and examined the contents of their stomach and not the marine ecosystem itself. The investigation found that 1-in-5 fishers discovered native marine life in the stomachs of the escaped salmon and highlighted the issue of wild fish by-catch fish after the mass salmon escape. Fishers surveyed also expressed 'concerns over environmental impacts of large-scale marine farming and escapees' and 'very little support expressed for the current regulations as they relate to escapees.'
“There are many more questions that need answering about the wider impact of escaped predatory salmon,” Ms Howarth said
“More data is needed before we can accurately assess the environmental damage of these escapes. A survey of fishers is a start but not conclusive. How were native fish populations impacted? How many different species were eaten? How were critical habitats like seagrass impacted? Where is the evidence that there is no damage? There is nothing in the report on whether any of Tasmania’s world-famous, and extremely rare, handfish were eaten by the voracious large salmon escapees.
In Norway and Chile, salmon giants Mowi were fined $750,000 and $9.5 million respectively over mass fish escapes. In Tasmania, the salmon barons get away scot-free. We call on the Tasmanian government to levy similar penalties on Tasmanian companies for these repeated mass escape events," Ms Howarth said.