Robust research underpins Tasmanian Atlantic Salmon aquaculture’s environmental credentials

Today the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) have chosen to downgrade Atlantic Salmon grown in Tasmania to red, advising consumers not to buy it.

 

In this instance, the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (FRDC) is keen to point out the legacy of robust scientific research that has gone into ensuring the industry meets high environmental standards.

 

FRDC research has underpinned third party accreditations and led to salmon farming in Tasmania being recognised as some of the most sustainable farming in the world. Industry engagement in third party accreditation ensures that they continue to support research, as such accreditation requires continual improvement.

 

The FRDC’s Managing Director, Dr Patrick Hone, said the organisation will defend the record of its science and that of its research partners – research bodies like the CSIRO and the University of Tasmania.

 

AMCS have pointed to issues such as overstocking in Macquarie Harbour and low oxygen levels resulting in fish kills, to explain their decision.

 

There have indeed been fish kills in Macquarie Harbour and some directly attributable to low oxygen events, however a majority of the recent mortalities have been due to Pilchard Ortho-myxo Virus outbreaks. While there is very likely to be environmental aspect to outbreaks of this virus, it is known that biosecurity and fish husbandry practices play a major role. All these aspects are the topics of current research efforts.

 

The FRDC understands there have been community concerns in relation to salmonid farming and the long-term effects of aquaculture expansion in Tasmania.

 

The organisation in partnership with the Tasmanian Government and industry have responded to these issues with investment in large, long term project to understand oxygen dynamics and benthic recovery in Macquarie Harbour (FRDC project 2016-067 comprising an FRDC investment of $2.2m) and research to understand the impacts of low oxygen levels on the endangered Maugean Skate (FRDC project 2016-068 with an FRDC, Tasmanian Government and World Wildlife Fund for Nature Australia investment of some $421k). See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f5peYJrBw_Q

 

In addition, we are developing a better understanding of the oxygen dynamics and cycles in Macquarie Harbour (river flow and wind are major drivers; the combination of these conditions naturally drives low oxygen levels in spring and early summer).

The Fisheries Research and Development Corporation is an independent public body tasked with prioritising and funding research and development for all fishing and aquaculture sectors across Australia.

 

While the FRDC does receive some funding from fishing and aquaculture industry sectors across Australia through voluntary contributions, all of our research activities are guided by scientific principles of quality and transparency. The bulk of our funding is ‘public good’ and we are required to invest in a balanced research portfolio. This includes addressing environmental needs, industry development needs, needs of the Australian community, development of people and communicating our results to relevant stakeholders (including the community).

 

The FRDC is also a statutory body, which means our independence from government is enshrined in legislation. We do not work with one single research organisation or research provider. We are continually seeking the most appropriately qualified scientists to conduct work for us. To ensure the highest quality of science all research is peer reviewed and made available freely on FRDC’s website www.frdc.com.au, including the research referred to above.