Salmon farming in the marine environment has the potential to interact with protected marine wildlife, including cetaceans (whales and dolphins), seals and seabirds. The Department oversees a legal and policy framework that seeks to reduce the risks to wildlife and to the health and safety of people.
What are wildlife interactions?
Salmon farming can attract marine wildlife, either by providing habitat (a place to shelter or rest) or as a potential food source. Wildlife may access food either directly (by eating farmed fish or fish food) or indirectly (by preying on wild fish attracted to infrastructure).
Interactions can include wildlife:
- entering fish containment pens,
- interfering with infrastructure or vessels,
- becoming trapped or entangled,
- creating holes or damaging netting, or
- using infrastructure as a convenient resting or roosting site.
These types of interactions can impact the welfare of marine wildlife and may also result in risks to human safety and industry operations.
A range of wildlife species interact with salmon farming infrastructure and operations in Tasmania. Of these, fur seals are the most commonly interacting species and present the greatest management challenges.
How are wildlife interactions managed?
Marine Farming Development Plans
(Plans) set out areas where marine farming can occur. Plans contain management controls to intended to mitigate and manage potential negative effects of marine farming within the plan area. Under these management controls, lessees (operators) must not interact with wildlife except in accordance with the
Nature Conservation Act 2002
A key strategy for minimising wildlife interactions with salmon farming is to exclude animals from accessing penned salmon and gaining a food reward. As such, the Department provides an oversight, permitting and audit role to ensure that minimum requirements are met for wildlife exclusion from fish pens. This is achieved primarily through the
Seal Management Framework 2018
(SMF) and the associated Minimum Requirements for the Mitigation of Seal Interactions with Aquaculture Staff and Infrastructure in Tasmania 2018A.
The Department can also authorise, under permit, the salmon industry to use a variety of secondary management tools (including deterrent devices) available under the SMF to help minimise health and safety risks to farm workers and to manage the risks of stock loss or infrastructure damage.
The SMF was updated in 2018 to accommodate new technologies and clarify industry compliance and auditing requirements. Routine relocation of trapped fur seals from marine farming leases to other parts of the State is no longer allowed under the SMF. The industry is encouraged to continually improve farming practices and develop mitigation measures to minimise the incidence of interactions causing or contributing to the death or injury of protected marine wildlife. The Department works with the salmon industry to review, refine and develop new fish pen designs and wildlife management practices to improve worker safety and animal welfare outcomes.
Salmon industry management and reporting
Salmon farming companies use a variety of methods to reduce interactions with and mitigate impacts on marine wildlife, including using specially designed pens to reduce wildlife interactions and better protect staff, and adopting wildlife interaction plans, protocols and procedures.
Salmon farming companies report wildlife interactions to the Department on a monthly basis, and are required to report mortalities and injuries within stricter timeframes. Notifications concerning seal mortalities are available on the Tasmanian Salmon Farming Data Portal (Salmon Portal)
Reported wildlife mortalities are assessed by the Department as being attributable (or not) to salmon farming activities on a case-by-case basis.