How is Tasmania’s salmonid industry currently regulated?
Marine salmonid farming operations in Tasmania are primarily managed under the provisions of the Marine Farming Planning Act 1995 (MFPA) and the Living Marine Resources Management Act 1995 (LMRMA).
The MFPA sets out processes to plan for marine farming development and to determine the allocation of marine farming leases in State waters. The Minister for Primary Industries and Water and the Secretary of the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (DPIPWE) have essential roles, as the decision maker and the planning authority respectively, under the MFPA.
Individual marine farms are authorised by a licence under the LMRMA which specifies what species may be farmed within a lease area and under what conditions.
In Tasmania, marine salmonid farming operations also rely on the supply of juvenile Atlantic salmon and rainbow trout from freshwater hatcheries for on-growing at sea. Freshwater salmonid farming operations are regulated by Inland Fisheries Service through the Inland Fisheries Act 1995 (IFA). Each farm is authorised by a fish farm licence under the IFA.
What changes are being made to the regulatory system?
The Government is separating the ongoing environmental regulation of the salmonid farming industry from the development and planning regulatory functions. A key component of the new framework has already been achieved by transferring environmental regulation to the Environment Protection Authority (EPA). This step integrates the regulation of all salmonid inland and marine farms, including hatcheries, and will improve overall consistency of process.
Placing environmental regulation of salmonid aquaculture under the responsibility of the EPA will also bring it into line with other large industry sectors such as mining and food processing.
The proposed legislative changes will introduce a new Environmental licence for salmonid aquaculture to enable the EPA to consolidate all environmental conditions into one instrument and ensure they are being met by operators.
Marine farming operations will still require a Marine Farming licence in order to comply with other non-environmental conditions, such as the requirement to provide navigational markers.
To formally bring environmental regulatory changes into effect, amendments to a number of pieces of legislation are needed.
How will changes affect the existing planning and development process?
The overall planning and development framework for marine salmonid farming will remain largely unchanged, with primary decision making regarding the areas for development resting with the Minister under the MFPA. Additional powers will be provided to the Director of the EPA, which will enable the Director to require specific environmental matters to be addressed during the planning process and to ensure the EPA is notified of key decisions.
The general planning and development of freshwater salmonid farming operations will also remain largely unchanged. However, in the instance that the EPA’s assessment of an application for a new inland fish farm indicates that a particular site is environmentally unsuitable for that activity, the EPA may refuse to grant a licence. The Inland Fisheries Service will also be required to notify the EPA of key decisions that it makes.
How is the regulatory system enforced?
Marine salmonid growers are currently regulated through the provisions of the MFPA, marine farming lease conditions and management controls in Marine Farming Development Plans, which have the effect of law. The MFPA prescribes offences and penalties, including the offence of failing to comply with management controls.
In addition, a power to impose conditions through a Marine Farming licence is provided for under the LMRMA and includes an offence of failing to comply with licence conditions, with associated penalties.
Offences and penalties relating to salmonid aquaculture activities are proposed in changes to the Environmental Management and Pollution Control Act 1994 (EMPCA). These offences include failing to hold an Environmental Licence when required and failing to comply with the conditions of a licence. The penalties for existing general environmental offences under EMPCA will also apply.
Why is the Government making changes to the environmental regulation of salmonid aquaculture?
Under the current legislative framework, DPIPWE has been responsible for planning and development as well as environmental regulation of the industry. Significant industry growth and expansion now necessitates some changes as to how it is regulated and managed. The Government is also responding to community and industry concerns about the environment by improving the transparency and accountability of regulatory functions.
What are the key benefits of the environmental regulatory changes?
Placing the EPA as the State's independent environmental regulator in charge of the salmonid industry’s environmental regulation will have the following benefits:
- Address community concerns regarding the current independence and transparency of environmental regulation and enforcement functions.
- Integrate the environmental regulation of all marine and inland salmon farms and hatcheries under a single independent authority.
- Relieve the regulatory burden on some local Councils by consolidating responsibility for the environmental regulation of salmonid freshwater operations.
- Provide a regulatory framework that keeps pace with industry growth and supports community expectations and market confidence without compromising the continued sustainable operation of Tasmania’s salmonid aquaculture sector.
- Enhance and streamline environmental regulatory processes by enabling other areas of Government to focus on managing the planning and development of the salmonid marine farming sector.
Why change the current regulatory system?
The current regulatory framework has operated effectively for more than 20 years. Nonetheless, there are aspects that can be enhanced, such as improved consistency in the environmental regulation of the freshwater salmonid hatcheries. For example, some hatcheries are managed to varying degrees by local Government, some are effectively unregulated, and at least two are currently being regulated by the EPA under Environment Protection Notices.
Most importantly, the industry’s significant expansion plans have given rise to concern in the community, as well as amongst recreational fishers and some wild fishery sectors, about the independence of the existing regulatory framework.
The changes are intended to improve the transparency and independence of environmental regulatory processes and decision making by transferring responsibility to the EPA.
What are the key principles of the changes?
- Clear and consistent process
- Community and market confidence
- Optimal and balanced environmental regulatory outcomes.
What legislation is going to be changed?
The changes will involve amendments to a number of Acts, including:
- Environmental Management and Pollution Control Act 1994 (EMPCA)
- Marine Farming Planning Act 1995 (MFPA)
- Living Marine Resources Management Act 1995 (LMRMA), and
- Inland Fisheries Act 1995 (IFA).
Hasn’t the EPA already been made the environmental regulator for salmonid aquaculture?
Since 1 July 2016, the Director, EPA has been regulating the environmental aspects of salmonid aquaculture activities by delegation under the LMRMA and MFPA. Changes to legislation are a necessary step to transfer into law the ongoing environmental regulatory responsibility for salmonid aquaculture to the EPA in a permanent and more comprehensive manner.
Will these changes be effective in protecting the environment?
The changes are about making improvements to the existing environmental regulatory framework for salmonid aquaculture. They are not about maintaining the status quo. The intention is to provide assurance to the community, industry and markets that there will be ongoing environmental sustainability in this sector, through regulation by the EPA as an independent authority.
The salmonid industry is important to Tasmania’s economy – will the changes affect industry growth and jobs?
The changes are intended to create a positive environmental regulatory framework that is transparent and accountable, and which is focused on ensuring the long term sustainability of the industry and employment for Tasmanians. Having regulatory and resource certainty encourages investor confidence and supports market growth. The salmonid industry has enhanced the State’s reputation as a producer of premium products.
The Tasmanian salmonid farming industry has grown significantly since its inception in 1985, with farm gate value of production now over $700 million. In 2015, it was calculated that aquaculture contributes 2.3 per cent of State GSP and 1.2 per cent of State employment, and continues to experience strong sales demand for its products.
Will the changes impose a significant cost on industry?
The fees to hold an Environmental licence are yet to be determined, however they will be commensurate with the regulatory effort necessary to ensure effective compliance with licence conditions.
In the case of applications to establish new marine or inland fish farms, environmental assessment requirements are expected to remain largely unchanged and assessment fees will be similar to those currently charged. Should the Director of the EPA consider it appropriate to refer an application for an Environmental licence for a marine farm to the EPA Board for assessment, there will be an additional cost to the applicant.
Will the changes hold up approvals for new proposals?
One of the key objectives of the changes is to clarify and streamline environmental regulatory processes and avoid unnecessary red tape. Consideration of a new application for an Environmental licence by the Director or Board of the EPA will coincide with the planning and assessment processes for Marine Farming or inland Fish Farm licences. No undue delays for applicants are anticipated, provided that the information supplied is adequate for the EPA to make a decision on whether an Environmental licence should be granted.
In the case of inland salmonid farms and hatcheries, existing application processes will remain the same, although in future, all proposed fish farms above certain thresholds will need to be assessed by the EPA. Applicants for new marine farms will be required to complete an application form for an Environmental licence.
When will the new legislation come into effect?
The Government introduced a Bill into Parliament on 17 August 2017. Once these changes become law the changes will be implemented as soon as practicable.