Stab Magazine | The Fight For King Island Continues

The Fight For King Island Continues

100-plus protest at King Island to protect Tassal’s proposed salmon farms. 

news // Apr 29, 2019
Words by stab
Reading Time: 3 minutes

The proposed salmon farms at King Island has been an ongoing ordeal for some time. Towards the end of 2017, the issue received much public coverage, but that was only the beginning. Most who surfed were primarily concerned with the potential impact on Martha Lavinia’s prestigious wedges, but as some dove deeper, the larger environmental impact became clear. 

Tassal, the salmon company planning to develop a salmon farm off just south of Martha Lavinia, were granted a permit to explore the region two years ago after planning to expand beyond their current Tasmanian East Coast set-up. Today, those plans have not progressed beyond exploration and research, but neither has the threat diminished. 

In July of last year, Tassal endured a major blunder after failing to negotiate a ’round table’ meeting between themselves, surfers, scientists, and residents of King Island. Tassal hired the American firm, Route to Market, to organise a meeting between the aforementioned groups. They however fell short by failing to invite a number of the groups in the first place. These groups were only made aware of their apparent presence after the meeting was announced publicly. 

“We have received no invitation to this event, or any contact from Tassal or Route To Market regarding our attendance,” was what Craig McIntyre, a Surfrider Australia spokesperson said after the announcement. “This gives the clear impression to invitees who are being forwarded this information that we support the round table and will be attending, when in truth, we have not been invited, do not endorse the event and would not have known about it in the absence of receiving concerned calls from community members asking if the event was legitimate.”

Environment Tasmania’s Laura Kelly went on to describe Tassal’s attempts as a ‘cynical PR effort’. 

Anyway, I digress.

Last Monday, the push back against Tassal continued. 100-plus individuals took to Currie Harbour to protest the proposed farms, with over 30 surfers paddling out to form a ring – which was appropriately the size of your average salmon pen. 

The board based protestors at Currie Harbour last week. Photo: ABC/Laura Smith

Charlie Stubbs, from Keep King Island Fish Farm Free had this to say about the ongoing battle and protests. “We’ve got a long fight on our hands as we know and it could be two to three years before any fish farm company establishes fish farms off our coastal waters, but we want to make sure that our protest remains visible.”

According to the ABC – who I clearly borrowed some sources from – last week’s protest was focused on the potential damage to Martha Lavinia’s waves. The opposed have a fair claim that Tassal’s proposed farms will impact the waves – these 240m circumference pens may block the flow of south swell which Martha relies on* – but there’s also wider concerns for the broad environmental damage these farms may cause. 

Tassal’s initial permit map.

Tassal has a tarnished environmental record in Tasmania – read about theirs and other salmon companies’ issues in Macquarie Bay, written by myself, here – primarily due to the sewage output of these farms, as well as the processed feed given to the fish. Your average salmon farm produces the sewage output of 7,500 people, which is three times more than the current human population of King Island. 

This sewage has wreaked havoc on Tasmania’s Macquarie Bay, the salmon themselves, and native fish throughout the region. There are concerns that a similar fate may exist for King Island if the farms are eventually developed.

After the protests, Tassal released a statement reiterating that the plans are still in their early stages. Here is that statement:

“Evaluation of environmental data continues. It is critical to understand that it is early days in the process, and can take many months to years to determine — which we have communicated from the outset,” the statement said.

“Through the process, Tassal has spoken with community groups and offered members of the public to travel to Hobart to tour its operations, which have included its land based hatchery/nursery, marine farms and processing facilities — as well as its world first remote feed centre to understand the breadth of innovation and technology involved.”

If you want to stay up to date on the issues, follow Surfrider Australia on FB, or more specifically, the Save Martha Lavinia Beach page.

*It relies on a mix of south and north swells.

P.s. keep your eyes peeled for No Contest Bells. It’ll show you exactly why Martha Lavinia should remain untouched – except for us greedy surfers, of course. 


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