Maugean Skate must thrive in Macquarie Harbour, not a fish tank

Today’s announcement by the Federal Environment minister, Tanya Plibersek, of $2.1 million for a Maugean Skate captive breeding programme falls well short of genuine conservation action. These funds would be far better spent on removing fish farms from Macquarie Harbour.

The announcement comes with an updated conservation plan for the Maugean Skate that includes some important recommendations and outcomes:

Urgent Priority – before summer 2023/24

  • Eliminate or significantly reduce the impacts of salmonid aquaculture on dissolved oxygen concentrations. The fastest and simplest way to achieve this is by significantly reducing fish biomass and feeding rates.

The Federal Environment minister is choosing to ignore this advice from her own department and instead placing a bet on a risky strategy of putting Maugean Skates in fish tanks.

We could be one adverse weather event away from this ancient creature’s extinction. Fish farms must be immediately destocked and removed from Macquarie Harbour.

“When the minister promised no new extinctions on her watch, I don’t think the Australian public imagined that meant we would have a threatened species zoo,” said Alistair Allan, Antarctic and Marine campaigner at Bob Brown Foundation.

“Captive breeding is not the solution to the problem. In the federal government’s updated conservation plan, released today, they list fish farm impacts on the skate as ‘catastrophic’, so that’s what must be addressed.”

“ Fish farms and Hydro flows were listed as catastrophic impacts on the Maugean Skate. All of the other impacts that Salmon Tasmania have been highlighting, such as historical mining impacts and gillnetting, were listed as only major impacts. Fish farms must get out of Macquarie Harbour if the Maugean Skate has any chance of survival.”

“The word catastrophic is not used lightly by a government. The salmon industry and the Tasmanian government must act now and remove all fish farms from Macquarie Harbour.”

“Wes Ford and the Tasmanian EPA must also refuse to renew the licenses for Macquarie Harbour fish farms on 30 November this year. It would be inconceivable to approve them, given the plight of the Maugean Skate.”

Today, Ekō, Sea Choices, NOFF and Bob Brown Foundation have launched a campaign calling for Australia’s major supermarkets to act now to protect the skate and halt the sale of any salmon or trout sourced from Macquarie Harbour.

In the twelve hours since the campaign went live on our website, over 34,000 people have signed on urging the supermarkets to act.

“Coles, Woolworths and Aldi have the power to act now. They are the most important buyers of Tasmanian salmon. The salmon farms on Macquarie Harbour will stop operating when their biggest buyers stop buying.”

“They can save the skate today by refusing to buy any salmon sourced from Macquarie Harbour,” Alistair Allan said.

Photo: Jane Ruckert

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