According to statistics Australians consume a lot of salmon which is farmed in Tasmania. However, concern about the environmental damage caused by the factory farming of salmon is growing.
According to a report by the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment the Tasmanian salmon farming industry is set to double in size by 2030.
In financial terms that means it will have grown from zero to a billion dollars in just three decades.
However, researchers are now saying that one of the most heinous practices of this industry needs to be intensely scrutinised – that being the use of so-called “cracker bombs” or “seal bombs”.
The majority of Australian salmon farming is located in Tasmania, where the sea water is among the warmest in the world which means it’s ideal for Atlantic salmon.
On the Department of Natural Resources and Environment Tasmania website it says that marine farming has been growing rapidly in Tasmania since the 1990s, and that Atlantic salmon is Tasmania’s most lucrative fishery-related industry with annual output valued at circa $497 million.
The Tasmanian salmon industry comprises of three major producers: Huon Aquaculture, Tassal and Petuna.
Because fur seals may attack fish pens in search of food and injure salmon farm divers, (incidents of harm to divers are extremely rare) it is no surprise that these companies go to great efforts to protect their operations from the seals.
It should be noted that fur seals are a protected species in Australia with…. wait for it…..
….yes, that’s right everyone, an exemption for the salmon farming industry.
Cracker Bombs and Seal Bombs
Exploding seal bombs produce intense impulsive and broadband noise with energy at a wide range of frequencies, some of which can carry for tens of kilometers across the ocean.
Researchers at the Scripps Acoustic Ecology Laboratory estimate that these bombs can be heard by whales and dolphins for up to 80 kilo-meters away.
Seal Bombs are firecrackers that contain approximately of 2.5g of explosive charge which sinks and then explodes 1- 4 meters under the water’s surface, producing a loud noise that can travel for kilo-meters underwater.
Cracker-Bombs are underwater explosive devices that emit sharp and extremely loud noise impulses. They are made from 12 gauge shotgun shells and contain a sound and flash explosive charge that is designed to explode in the air and/or on the surface of the water at a distance of 75 to 100 yards from the point of discharge.
In Australia the A$ billion salmon farming industry uses both these techniques to drive seals (and to protect their profits) away from their fish farming operations.
The industry also uses a number of other seal deterrent devices, the use of which is approved by the Australian government.
These devices include:
Lead-filled projectiles known as “beanbags”, which are fired from a gun.
Sedation darts fired from a gun.
The industry claims that these seal deterrents are both necessary and justified.
However, international research has shown that the use of these devices pose a significant threat to marine life.
Protecting a Lucrative Industry
In June of of this year, it was reported on government documents that Tasmania’s three major salmon farm operators have detonated at least 77,000 cracker bombs since 2018.
The report and documents showed how the various seal deterrent methods had led to maiming, death and seal injuries many which have resulted in euthanasia. Blunt-force trauma was a factor in half the reported seal deaths.
In response to this report the Tasmanian salmon farming industry has continued to defend it’s use of cracker bombs, saying they had a responsibility to protect workers. They went on to say that the increased use of seal-proof infrastructures meant that the use of seal deterrents was declining.
In a ‘bullshit baffles brains‘ statement, the Tasmanian Salmonid Growers Association, which represents the three producers named above, said:
“Around $500 million has been spent on innovative pens by the industry. These pens are designed to minimise risks to wildlife as well as to fish stocks and the employees.
We believe that farms should be designed to minimise the threat of seals, but we also understand that non-lethal deterrents are a part of the measures approved by the government for the individual member companies to use. If these deterrents are used it is under strict guidelines, sparingly, and in emergency situations when staff are threatened by these animals, which can be very aggressive.
Tasmania has a strong, highly regulated, longstanding salmon industry of which we should all be proud. The salmon industry will continue its track record of operating at world’s best practice now and into future.
Our local people have been working in regional communities for more than 30 years, to bring healthy, nutritious salmon to Australian dinner plates, through innovation and determination.”
However, this BBB statement is NOT reflected in the scientific data which raises questions as to the truth of this industry’s protestations.
Piercing the ocean silence
Given the prevalence of seal bombs used by the Tasmanian salmon industry, it’s worth reviewing the scientific data/evidence to see how these monstrous devices affect seals and other marine life.
In California a study on the use of these devices showed how they cause horrific injuries to seals. The damage includes trauma to bones, soft tissue burns and prolapsed eye balls, as well as death.
The research also showed that the damage to marine life extends far beyond just the seals.
For example, these devices can disturb porpoises which rely on echolocation to find food, avoid predators and navigate the ocean. Porpoises emit clicks and squeaks – sound which travels through the water and bounces off objects.
In 2018, a study in California found that seal bombs could disturb their harbour porpoises for at least 64 kilometres from the site of detonation.
Another study conducted in South Africa showed how during seismic surveys (in search of oil or gas, which produces intense ocean noise), penguins raising chicks often avoided their preferred foraging areas. Whales and fish have also shown similar avoidance behaviour.
The South African study also showed how underwater blasts can kill and injure seabirds such as penguins.
Research has also shown that underwater explosions causes enormous damage to fish populations. One such study conducted on caged fish showed profound trauma to the fishes ears, including blistering, holes and other damage.
Another study has published official reports showing dead fish in the vicinity of seal bomb explosions.
There is also a huge body of scientific research showing how similar types of industrial noise negatively affects marine life.
Meanwhile in America
In July ’22 and again on August 1st the America the Center for Food Safety and allied organisations submitted comments to the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service regarding the agency’s proposed Aquaculture Opportunity Areas in the Gulf of Mexico and the Southern California Bight.
These Aquaculture Opportunity Areas (AOA) identify areas that the National Marine Fisheries Service deems suitable for industrial fish farms in federal ocean waters.
Citing numerous environmental problems and regulatory concerns, the Center for Food Safety and allied organisations have urged the National Marine Fisheries Service to reconsider the expansions of the AOA and of industrial fish farming in these public waters.
Meredith Stevenson, staff attorney at the Center for Food Safety said:
“Despite its lack of authority from Congress, the Fisheries Service is taking yet another step to launch industrial fish farming in our federal ocean waters.”
“But these factory farms of the sea are not the answer to overfishing or food insecurity.
Instead, this industry’s expansion will only exacerbate the threats to our oceans by harming water quality and exposing wild fish and other wildlife to pharmaceuticals, pesticides, farmed fish escapes, and disruptions from the placement and operation of these facilities in sensitive marine environments.”
Clearly, more scientific research is needed into how seal bombs affect marine life in the oceans off Tasmania. We also believe that regulators should impose far stricter limits on the salmon industry’s use of seal bombs – a call echoed by Tasmania’s Salmon Reform Alliance.
All this is unfolding across the world and yet the Australian federal environment laws continue to fail in the protection of plant and animal species. This corrupted government are also not listening to the people’s demands for strengthened environmental legislation .
The Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) have noted that the director of Tasmania’s Environment Protection Authority can decide on license applications by individual salmon farms without necessarily undergoing a full environmental assessment.
The EDO has also noted that the public are never notified of the key decisions made under these laws and have little or no rights of appeal.
We should also be aware that farmed fish inevitably escape their enclosures and spread pathogens and parasites to wild species and compete with wild species for food and mates.
Fish farms also cause damage to humans swimming in the sea. Read this –> Pesticides in Fish Farms
Unless the salmon industry is more strictly controlled, native species will continue to be killed or injured as this industry continues to expand.
Rambling In Pen thanks you for your time in reading this article. Please share it with your friends and family.
We leave you now with a tune from Supertramp – The Logical Song.
Peace and Tranquility.
Author: Michael W