Federal Government approval of the controversial Tassal fish farm on Tasmania’s east coast may be met with legal action from conservationists.
The Okehampton Bay farm, slated to operate at a capacity of 800000 fish, was granted environmental approval last Wednesday.
Tassal is hoping to have fish in the water by the end of August in what the company says is the biggest eco-aquaculture site in the nation.
It plans to also grow and harvest seaweed near the 28 underwater pens to reduce potentially damaging nitrogen levels in the water.
Environment Tasmania says the farm is too close to the calving grounds of endangered southern right whales and has flagged legal action against the EPBC’s decision.
Environment Tasmania strategy director Laura Kelly indicated a judicial review or civil action were options once the group sighted details of the EPBC’s decision.
She said the approval went against the Federal Government’s own management plan for the species.
‘‘We’re sitting down with our lawyers,’’ Ms Kelly said.
‘‘I’m pretty gutted but on one level not surprised because they’ve done it before on the west coast.’’
Tassal was ordered in January to destock its Franklin lease in Macquarie Harbour after 14 non-compliance issues were found.
Tasmanian Primary Industries Minister Jeremy Rockliff has hailed the approval as a win for the state’s economy.
Up to 25 jobs could be created by the $30million project and 17 people have already been recruited.
The farm, several kilometres from the iconic Maria Island, will stock multiple fish species, as well as mussels, seaweed and maybe urchins.
‘‘It will form part of a broader integrated multi-trophic farm, which reduces environmental impact,’’ Tassal senior manager Barbara McGregor said.
Federal Member for Denison Andrew Wilke has dubbed the EPBC’s approval ‘‘disappointing’’ while the federal Greens are also against the farm.
Meanwhile, salmon farming could expand to Tasmania’s north-west waters including around King Island.
The region has been identified as a ‘grow zone’ under a Sustainable Salmon Industry Growth Plan plan to be released by the Tasmanian Government.
The plan, to be released ‘‘soon’’ according to Mr Rockliff, will look at biosecurity and regulation issues and canvass community and industry stakeholders.
Petuna Aquaculture has indicated a desire to farm fish near Three Hummock Island.
Further fish farming beyond the existing lease at Okehampton Bay has been banned under the plan.