Tassal’s Okehampton Bay salmon farm Australia’s first eco-aquaculture site

Triabunna is set to become home to Australia’s first eco-aquaculture site with Tassal announcing Okehampton Bay will be the base for a multi-species farm with forecast ecological and environmental benefits.

The site, which has been scientifically researched and critiqued through careful assessments over a number of years, now has full approval to proceed from the Australian Government through the formal Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) process.

The EPBC process concluded that Tassal’s Finfish Aquaculture at Okehampton Bay is not a controlled action if undertaken in a particular manner.

Tassal senior manager Corporate Engagement Barbara McGregor said there was tremendous excitement amongst the recently appointed local team that would be working on an industry flagship site with leading academic, marine science and operational experts.

“Seaweed cultivation trials by Tassal have been ongoing for two years on a number of Tassal’s sites, including at Okehampton Bay,” she said.

“Seaweed can both absorb excess nutrients and create a valuable co-product. It will form part of a broader integrated multi-trophic farm, which reduces environmental impact through the growth of shared species in shared spaces.”

Tassal is working with researchers on a series of potential projects at Okehampton Bay to generate this eco-aquaculture environment, including:

  • Rehabilitation of kelp barrens to encourage native species and support recreational fishers and tourism.
  • Identification of historic native oyster habitat, with a goal of reintroducing the species.
  • Reduction of pest urchins in the surrounding reef systems through a ranching project, which is looking at how we can transform a pest into a commercial outcome, and hopefully improve the local environment for both commercial and recreational fishers.
  • Supporting regionally relevant climate change research in conjunction with studies looking into the production of thermally tolerant fish through a dedicated selective breeding program.
  • Hydrodynamic and nutrient modelling in the broader area as part of a project with CSIRO.

 

Tassal envisages Okehampton Bay as an eco-aquaculture hub, which would provide the opportunity for continued research investment. The potential to establish a dedicated centre-of-excellence research facility, focused on cross cutting research on climate change and aquaculture and fisheries sustainability, and interfacing with education and tourism is being considered.

The site will have direct benefit for the existing mussel growing lease, with Spring Bay Seafoods having successfully grown organic mussels on site for over a decade.

“Tassal will also pursue full Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) certification at Okehampton Bay,” Ms McGregor said.

Tassal, which today has been benchmarked as the number two salmon company globally for transparent corporate, social and environmental reporting by Seafood Intelligence, and in the top three since 2012, is committed to maintaining nothing short of world-class standards at Okehampton Bay.

“Tasmania is a proud maritime community and balancing recreational, environmental and operational needs in regional waterways is vital for sustainable communities,” Ms McGregor said.

“We know the world is watching us, our industry peers are watching us and that is why our plans for Okehampton Bay and our commitment to maintaining excellent compliance and innovation across all our sites is paramount.”

Tassal will progressively commence operations from August 2017. Seventeen local employees have been recruited across a variety of positions to commence work, with further positions to be filled. Ninety per cent of those recruited were either unemployed or had to travel away from their east coast home to work.

“Who better to look after the local environment and waterways than local people,” Ms McGregor said. “These people are passionate about their community and their ability on a weekend to boat, fish, yacht and swim in the shared waterway, to be proud of living where they work – and working where they live.”

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