Animal welfare

They shoot seals, don’t they?

  • Seals are protected native animals, drawn to fish farms as a food source. To deter them, fish farms are allowed to fire beanbag bullets at seals which habitually approach the farms. There have been reports of seals being blinded and deafened as a result of this.
  • In the past, fish farmers were allowed to relocate troublesome seals to far north western Tasmania, however this is no longer allowed because of the adverse effect on local commercial and recreational fishing operations in those areas.
  • Fish farms also use what they misleadingly call ‘crackers’ – underwater explosives – to scare off seals and dolphins. Sudden loud noises underwater are known to cause distress and injury to marine life, especially those which rely on hearing to communicate, and hunt for food.

Cruel methods of disease control

  • Amoebic gill disease is a common threat, particularly in summer. It deteriorates salmon gills so they don’t get enough oxygen. It can be washed off in a process called ‘bathing’, sometimes every 30-40 days, which involves pumping fish through a tube into a freshwater tank, and then returning them to their sea pen. Bathing is done on board large specialized wellboats, or by towing the pens very slowly to shore-based facilities with access to fresh water.
  • Processes like this are very stressful for fish and can result in injuries and mortalities. In 2018, a Tassal farm killed 30,000 fish during a ‘bathing’ treatment, citing ‘human error’ as the cause.
  • In 2018, over one million fish died from pilchard orthomyxovirus (POMV) in overcrowded fish farms in the fragile waters of Macquarie Harbour.

Cruel production methods

In other parts of the world (in the USA, Scotland and Scotland again) there is evidence that salmon handlers routinely casually maltreat fish, and that the use of heavy industrial machinery to process fish can cause distress and pain. Both are characteristic of inadequate management, supervision and training.

In Tasmania, without independent inspections, with no transparency, and with legal repercussions for members of the public entering areas around industrial salmon leases, NOFF is unable to assess fish health, mishandling, stress and pain levels.

NOFF and animal welfare groups here and internationally are urging greater transparency and a regime of regular monitoring.