Australian salmon farmer defends escape

Huon Aquaculture, one of the largest salmon farmers in Australia, is defending the escape of some of its Atlantic salmon into the Tasman Sea earlier this week.

Numerous news reports and the Tasmanian Greens political party claimed that up to 250,000 Atlantic salmon are on the loose after escaping from Dover, Tasmania, Australia-based Huon Aquaculture’s pens. Severe weather in the area caused the escape from two pens near Bruny Island in the Tasman Sea, according to news reports.

Recreational fishermen are taking advantage of the escape, reporting catches up to six kilograms, according to ABC RN.

However, the news reports have significantly exaggerated the numbers, Huon Aquaculture’s Managing Director and CEO Peter Bender said in a statement provided to SeafoodSource.

“Huon Aquaculture has been pioneering off-shore farming for the last three years and, unfortunately, some salmon did escape from two pens after the feed bins inside the pens punched through the nets during the storm event, but nothing like the numbers the Tasmanian Greens have alleged in the Tasmanian Parliament this week and media reports following,” Bender said.

While Bender declined to estimate the number of fish that escaped, he said the amount “was not sufficient to require us to report this to the ASX [Australian Securities Exchange].” 

“The fish escape numbers purported by the Tasmanian Greens and recent media reports is nothing like the truth and we have no intention of providing a running commentary on false claims,” he added.

“Of course we are disappointed that any fish have escaped but it was an exceptional weather event and escapes are rare. The storm peaked with waves of just over 11 meters, and the pens and the moorings all stayed exactly where they should during the storm event which demonstrates the long-term potential of high-energy farming,” Bender said. “No other company in Australia is farming in conditions like the ones we are. We’re showing that it can be done and done successfully but like anything new, there will be challenges and we learn from those.”

Some salmon escaped due to the feed bins used inside the pens, which Huon is phasing out “as we move to autonomous feed barges designed for extreme conditions,” Bender said.


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