Petuna Aquaculture has sacked 22 people from its fish-farming operations, after disease killed off thousands of its salmon in Macquarie Harbour.
The company said the decision was regrettable but a necessary step to ensure the business remained competitive.
All three of Tasmania’s salmon companies farm in Macquarie Harbour and all have had pens affected by pilchard orthomyxovirus, or POMV, this summer.
In November, it was revealed the naturally occurring virus had killed about 50,000 juvenile salmon from Petuna and Tassal’s leases in the harbour.
In December, Petuna culled 100,000 fish to stop the spread of the virus.
In a statement, Petuna chief finance and development officer David Wood said the redundancies were all supervisor and management roles.
Petuna CEO David Wood said all of the lost jobs were supervisors or managers. (ABC News: Laura Beavis)
“The decision is mainly due to expected lower production from Macquarie Harbour,” he said.
“Which is a result of one-off losses from POMV and lower stocking levels — in line with recent biomass determinations from the EPA (Environment Protection Authority) and our own views on sustainable lease management,” Mr Wood said.
Mr Wood said the company would continue to “responsibly manage the environment”.
“Notwithstanding the difficult decisions required, and the regrettable impact on employment, Petuna continues to support the importance of effective regulation by the EPA.”
Suggestions a million fish may have died
The state’s peak environment group is blaming “dire environmental conditions” in Macquarie Harbour for mass fish kills and disease outbreaks.
Laura Kelly from Environment Tasmania said the job losses were on Premier Will Hodgman’s head.
“The Hodgman Government still won’t disclose to the public how many fish have been killed in Macquarie Harbour this summer,” Ms Kelly said.
“Rather than deal with the problem they are trying to cover it up in the middle of an election campaign,” she said.
Laura Kelly from Environment Tasmania says the environment in Macquarie Harbour has collapsed. (ABC News: David Robertson)
“Kill numbers haven’t been confirmed but we are hearing from locals in the community that up to a million have been killed.
“It is unsurprising that Petuna has been forced to lay off 22 workers.”
But Ms Kelly admitted it was impossible for Environment Tasmania to verify the figure.
“We’re not taking lightly putting the number out there, all we’re asking for is a confirmation or a denial from the companies and the Government,” she said.
“It should be on the public record, it’s in the public interest.”
Parties join criticism
Parties on the left and right of the political spectrum have also hit out at the State Government.
The Shooters, Fishers & Farmers Party (SFF) also said it believed in excess of a million fish had died in the harbour.
“The State Government should hold their heads in shame, at the job losses reported by Petuna this week,” SFF vice-chairman Ken Orr said.
In a statement, Primary Industries Minister Jeremy Rockliff said the claims by Environment Tasmania and SFF were galling hypocritical crocodile tears.
Mr Rockliff said both had been campaigning for years to close down the salmon industry and cost jobs.
He said operational matters for Petuna were a matter for the company.
The leader of the Greens, Cassy O’Connor, said 1 million was a “staggering figure” and if true pointed to “environmental collapse” in the harbour.
“There are so many questions about Macquarie Harbour and reports we’re hearing, fairly constantly about fish deaths in the harbour,” she said.
Political parties from the left and right have slammed the State Government over the fish deaths. (ABC News: Sophie Zoellner)
“The industry here calls the shots and there’s been a complete lack of transparency about their operations and Tasmanians are being left in the dark on this issue.
“We get mistruths from the Liberals, Labor cheering on the industry and the industry calling the shots.”
In a statement, the EPA said companies were required to report increased fish mortalities to the relevant authorities and directed further questions regarding the deaths to the companies involved.
The ABC contacted all three salmon companies, but none would give specific figures on fish deaths in the harbour.
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