From the other side of the world


Some commonsense views from Tasmania, where aquaculture faces the same sort of opposition as our industry does in Scotland and elsewhere.

“We must grasp the opportunities the salmon industry offers”

At a time when we read almost daily about the challenges facing Tasmanians looking for secure, full-time employment, we can’t afford to turn our back on a job-creating industry like salmon farming.

We know a lack of secure and rewarding employment leaves people wondering what future their children will have in this state.

Some decide to leave and others piece together multiple part-time jobs to make ends meet.

If we want our kids to enjoy all that is good about this island we need to give them and their parents a chance to find employment.

But since April last year, the number of full-time jobs in Tasmania has fallen by 4700.

The interesting thing is that the unemployment rate and the total number of jobs in our state have hardly changed. This suggests that there is a huge increase in part-time work.

It’s an alarming shift that cannot be ignored because it means fewer people have secure jobs.

It means banks won’t lend you money to buy a house. It leaves people wondering when the work will dry up.

It causes stress and anxiety and puts pressure on relationships.

The growth in the service sector in the economy is welcome but it’s one of the reasons we’ve seen a trend towards part-time employment.

That’s why industries like aquaculture are so crucial to Tasmania’s economic future.

The salmon industry offers good-paying, full-time jobs which allow people to set up a home and provide for a family.

They underpin the economy because people have the capacity to spend.

Aquaculture has been one of our strongest performers over the last decade as the economy felt the brunt of a global financial crisis.

It’s adding full-time jobs to the economy at a time when the trend is going in the opposite direction.

A 2015 report from KPMG estimated the industry supports 2786 full-time jobs and the sector has continued to grow since then.

The annual turnover of Tasmania’s salmon farming industry is more than $1 billion.

Recent national media coverage has put the spotlight on the industry and environmentalists have ramped up a campaign against salmon farming.

For those of us who want to see the sector grow and prosper it’s a critical time. It’s a time for cool heads and collaboration.

It’s a time to allow science to dictate planning decisions so the public has confidence in the industry.

It’s a time to listen to community concerns, not glibly dismiss them as many too often do for political reasons.

We have some of the best marine and fishery scientists in the world right here in Tasmania.

We need to be guided by these experts, not biased quasi-environmental or political rhetoric.

I have heard it suggested that the tourism and aquaculture industries are incompatible.

I do not accept that argument. Fish farms have been part of the Tasmanian marine landscape for decades — notably alongside tourism hot spots like Bruny Island.

Indeed, salmon and ocean trout have found their way onto the menus of Australia’s finest restaurants and have become synonymous with Tasmania’s reputation for quality.

Of course we must manage the growth of this industry sensibly and sustainably but compromise doesn’t need to mean conflict.

Salmon farming is far too important to be used as a political wedge. Too many Tasmanians rely on aquaculture to make a living for it to become a political battleground.

At a time when Tasmania needs jobs, we can’t afford to turn our back on aquaculture.

We need full-time jobs in regional Tasmania, not a bitter fight within communities.

As a community we need to be willing to compromise and be prepared to work together.

If we don’t we risk damaging one of our state’s strongest industries and putting people out of work.

Rebecca White is a Tasmanian member for the seat of Lyons and a primary industries spokeswoman.

Reproduced from ‘The Mercury’ – all rights recognised.