Australian Workers’ Union defends Tasmania’s Atlantic salmon from Attacks

In a submission to the Federal Government’s House Standing Committee on Agriculture and Water Resources, the AWU says the state’s aquaculture industry has suffered huge damage from significant and deliberate misinformation about its ecological and animal welfare impacts.

Ian Wakefield, AWU Tasmania Branch Secretary, says the industry creates thousands of jobs in the state, at a time when work is becoming increasingly insecure.

But he says recent attacks on the industry are a threat to local businesses, families and jobs.


“The AWU Tasmanian Branch is focused on protecting our members in an industry that earns the state $796 million a year, and more that $1 billion by the time the salmon is processed,” Mr Wakefield says.

“Salmon is one of Tasmania’s high-quality exports with around $65 million of revenue coming from international markets, and it has largely remained stable while other key exports such as tourism have faced significant uncertainty during the pandemic.

“The industry employs workers with a range of skills, and contributes to improving skills in the region by partnering with local vocational education providers to coordinate its workforce.

“It is a major employer in regional communities such as the Huon Valley, the Tamar Valley, the Channel, the West Coast, the North West, and the Tasman Peninsula. Without it, many jobs would be lost in these communities.”

Dan Walton, AWU National Secretary, says the salmon industry can only continue to succeed by maintaining its social licence, on the back of effective governance and a commitment to continuous improvement in management.

But he says these aims are increasingly being undermined by environmental activists and their wild and misleading claims.

“The modern Tasmanian salmon industry bears little resemblance to its earliest years and the adoption of adaptive management approaches ensures that the industry keeps pace with best environmental practice,” Mr Walton says.


“The Tasmanian salmon industry is world-leading in its environmental monitoring and compliance activities – particularly in the use of biomass and nitrogen caps.

“This is a highly technical, responsible and ethical industry that Tasmanians – indeed all Australians – should be rightly proud of.

“Governments of all persuasions should encourage its continued operation and growth.”


The AWU’s submission points out several facts that are contrary to some of the wildly inflammatory, inaccurate and specious claims against the industry:

  • Marine life thrives in Tasmania alongside farmed salmon, with both commercial and recreational fisheries continuing to prosper.
  • Farmed Atlantic salmon has a higher “feed-conversion ratio” than wild salmon, deep-sea fish or land-based animals, making it more sustainable and ecologically friendly.
  • Prophylactic antibiotics and growth hormones are not used, and in general antibiotics are used rarely and only for fish welfare.
  • The RSPCA’s independently developed Approved Farming Scheme, which is used in Tasmania, means farmed salmon have oxygen-rich water to swim in, are closely monitored to ensure their good health, and enjoy enough space to swim effortlessly and perform schooling behaviour with other salmon.
  • While land-based farming is used to raise newly hatched salmon, the ability to use this technology for the whole lifecycle is in its infancy.
  • And contrary to claims about its environmental benefits, land-based farming creates additional waste management issues and uses more electricity.

“The AWU has worked hard to advocate for its members and the broader community by pushing for better pay and conditions in the sector, as well as via our ‘Save Tassie Salmon’ campaign – which educates the world about the incredible industry we have right here at home,” Mr Wakefield says.


“AWU members, the local Tasmanian community and those who enjoy eating Australian salmon have the right to information that is not unduly politicised or prosecuted in bad faith.

“The AWU will continue to push for the continued success of one of Tasmania’s most important industries.”

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