Macquarie Harbour health boost

Results from the latest independent environmental monitoring of Macquarie Harbour — which show oxygen levels have increased, sediment conditions are better and bacteria mats have reduced — demonstrate the benefit of Petuna’s approach to the stocking of leases under its management.

Posted on August 23, 2019

Seventy per cent of aquaculture farming in Macquarie Harbour now comes under Petuna’s direct management and the company’s operating model ensures at least 50 per cent of those leases are free of farming operations for 12 months a year. This means leases get a break of at least 12-15 months after stocking of 10-12 months.

The merits of this conservative approach are now evident. It is an approach Petuna has been applying since the late 1980s when it became the first company to grow and harvest salmon in the area. It was not until two decades later that the harbour was opened up to other producers.

We are also committed to demonstrating to the Environment Protection Authority we are managing our operations proactively as well as responding to issues as they arise.

While the new results are extremely pleasing, there is still much to be done. Our focus remains on long-term restoration of a sustainable, environmental balance in the harbour as well as the need to rebuild community confidence that the future wellbeing of the waterway is assured, while remaining capable of sustaining a responsible level of aquaculture production.

Some of the challenges we face are shifts in climate, water temperature and tides, which inevitably have an impact on oxygen levels. This has been the case forever. Such variations always pose a challenge in minimising risk to both fish and the environment. This challenge is not lessened by the progressive impact of climate change, another reason for our conservative management approach. Mother nature is always the biggest influence in our year-to-year management.

Because Petuna has been farming fish in Macquarie Harbour for more than 30 years, and because we intend to be doing so for many more years, we believe good environmental management is more important than the pressures of extending commercial targets. It’s a simple principle of self-preservation. If we treat the harbour well, it will do the same for us.

Over the past 18 months, the sense of achievement in turning an unacceptable situation around is a cause for considerable pride among our dedicated workforce. The health of the harbour and the industry it supports is also about job security. In fact, the positive vibe running through the community at present is infectious, especially after several very tough years. Now there is a real sense of confidence in what we are doing to ensure the future of the industry and the wellbeing of the community it supports.

Along with the changes made in farming practices, there has also been a huge adjustment in biosecurity, which is yet another step designed to protect the industry and the natural environment.

We acknowledge there is no opportunity to rest on our laurels in the belief we won’t face difficulties in the future. Aquaculture, like any primary industry, will always face environmental challenges and we have to make sure we are constantly ready to act. It is also important we ensure the environment in which we operate is sufficiently healthy and robust to withstand any issue that may arise.

In a state-wide context, the things that can impact the industry vary depending on regional conditions. The industry must focus on the things it can control while keeping a constant eye on those matters beyond its influence and doing what it can to minimise any adverse impact.

Aquaculture is an extremely valuable industry for Tasmania, and we want every Tasmanian to appreciate its contribution to the state and to understand and accept that with good management, aquaculture has a long-term sustainable future.

Richard Miller is General Manager – Strategy and Technical at Petuna. He has a Bachelor of Science and has worked in senior management roles in the aquaculture industry for more than 18 years.

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