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Why Anti-Salmon Activists Are Protesting Right Now

Activists have joined forces to boycott the Tasmanian salmon industry. Here’s what you need to know.

Anti-salmon farming activists are in agreement over the boycotting of a number of meetings set to discuss the draft salmon plan set out by the government. The reason for their protesting against the Tasmanian salmon industry comes down to their beliefs that it’s engaging in deceit, dishonesty and fraud, suggesting that the industry may be endangering lives too.

The protests come after the November takeover of major salmon farming company Tassal by Canadian giant Cooke Aquaculture. Activists fear the conglomerate could put further strain on the sensitive environment and shallow waters in Tasmania.

Neighbours of Fish is one of the groups of activists campaigning to put a stop to the Tasmanian salmon industry, with their Billboard Campaign at the heart of the protests continuing in the state. Their Dennes Point Declaration unveils their goals for a moratorium on any new industrial fishing farms, a transition from sea-based to land-based farms to reduce the risk to the environment, along with the appointment of a regulatory body to enforce community’s needs and make research-based decisions instead of financially-motivated ones. The group is protesting the remaining draft salmon plan discussion meetings as they claim the government has ignored their environmental and ethical duties. The draft plan claims it will identify a vision for the management of salmon farming into the future, improve the transparency of operations and aim to meet environmental and social standards – but activists say it’s not the solution, instead accusing the government is allowing the salmon industry to expand unsustainable practices in our waterways.

In his open letter to the Tasmanian premier, Peter George, president of Neighbours of Fish Farming, shares that their concerns are not being addressed in these draft plan meetings. 

“The latest draft salmon plan utterly ignores the concerns more than 200 people who made thoughtful, intelligent and informed submissions in the first round of “consultation” - more than 80% of whom expressed serious concern about industry expansion and its impact on marine life, communities and waterways,”Peter writes. 

But it’s not just the environmental risks activists are concerned about – new research shows it could be a health risk too. This is because of antibiotics consumed by the fish can have major health consequences for those who eat them, with the gut microbiome at substantial risk. While prescription antibiotics are sometimes necessary to fight a bacterial infection, they can cause a number of health issues as our bacterial balance gets thrown out of whack, leaving us vulnerable to an overgrowth of bad microbes. But we’re often consuming antibiotics even when they aren’t necessary – and we don’t even realise we’re doing it. Antibiotics in animal products and by-products is not a new issue, with crowded conditions and unethical treatment a root cause of the spread of disease. In the case of Tasmanian salmon farms, it’s been revealed that over a tonne of antibiotics were used to manage the spread of a fish disease earlier this year in two southern Tassie farms. One of the big issues here is this information was kept from the public, leaving many unaware of the situation. Other reports from Tassal and Huon Aquaculture stated that wild fish from outside the farm had consumed the antibiotic pellets too, something that, again, remained hidden from the public for months.

The Neighbours of Fish activists are calling for answers around the intentions for the salmon industry expansion and how the government will prevent environmental damage.

Peter George’s open letter continues, And will you now let Tasmanians into the secret of how and where you intend to green-light industry expansion? Is Bass Strait next for open-net Atlantic salmon cages? Or the west coast of the Furneaux Islands already designated for “fin fish” exploitation? Or increased stocking densities and cages around Bruny Island? Or further exploiting oxygen-depleted Macquarie Harbour?”

Activists are also calling for greater transparency around operations, to prevent the health risks that come with antibiotic treatment of sea-based salmon farms, from the risk to sensitive ecosystems to the risk to human health.


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