Tasmanian Atlantic salmon producer, Huon Aquaculture, today unveiled a world first in seal protection systems at its Hideaway Bay Farm.
The new seal protection system is expected to deliver unparalleled safety improvements – for farm workers, for seals, for sea birds, and for the salmon they protect.
“Seals are the oceans natural inhabitants and as long as we share the waterways with them, we have a responsibility to minimise any impact we have on them. The best way to protect them and keep them safe is by preventing them from entering our pens in the first place”, said Managing Director Peter Bender.
“Seals are inquisitive, intelligent and persistent animals and the best way to protect them and the fish we farm is to prevent the seals from entering our pens, thereby teaching them that they need to eat elsewhere. That’s why all the work we do is focussed on barrier protection.
“Seals can and have decimated our fish. Recently, one of our pens was breached by over 50 seals, killing more than 8,000 fish, many more than the seals could ever eat. The welfare of our fish is central to Huon’s philosophy of raising our fish in a stress free environment and we relentlessly pursue that philosophy,” said Mr Bender.
It is not only the seals and salmon that this new pen system protects.
“Working on the water in all weathers is a difficult task and it’s hard to imagine on a day like today just how difficult those working conditions can be - unpredictable swells, gusting winds and strong river flows are part of the day to day conditions out here. We need to provide a work environment that minimises the risks of working in these conditions and our new pen design provides a fully enclosed walkway for the first time in Tasmania”, said Mr Bender.
“Make no mistake, this pen is a world first. It brings existing technology together in a way never seen before. We’re using nets made out of the same material used to make bullet proof vests. We are using two nets instead of one to keep seals away from the fish, and fish away from the seals. We are drawing on windsurfer technology to withstand the buffeting Tasmanian winds. And we are using cutting edge, in situ ,net cleaning technology for the first time in Australia.
Huon Aquaculture, will invest over $40 million in the new pen system designed by its employees.
“I am extremely proud that it is our employees that are revolutionising pen design for the industry globally and I am also proud that we, as Tasmanians, a tiny player in world salmon production, are at the vanguard of the industry in terms of our ingenuity, invention and preparedness to invest in new ideas and improvements.
Huon will commence an immediate roll out of the new pens which is expected to take three years, generate 15 direct jobs at the company and cost approximately $43 million. The pens will be built in the Huon using local business Mitchell Plastic Welding and generating at least four new jobs.
Mr Bender said that the immediate investment and commitment to roll out the new pens farm-wide is a ringing endorsement of the ingenuity and innovativeness of Huon’s employees.
The initial trial project for the new pen system was supported by funding through the Australian Government's Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (Atlantic Salmon Aquaculture Subprogram: trial of a stock protection system for flexible oceanic fish pens).