Cumulative Impact Risk Assessment Tool for Aquaculture in Australia
Difficulties with current legislation in Australia at State and Federal level make it challenging for marine farms to protect themselves, but equally for the community to have faith that aquaculture development is not harming the marine environment. An example from Tasmania is the recent contamination of Macquarie Harbour, whereby tailings from Copper Mines Tasmania (CMT) dam in Queenstown entered the harbour and undoubtedly caused environmental harm to salmon and other species. Because CMT and salmon farmers operate under different Acts CMT was not responsible for the incident but rather the government. Consequently, no investigation or clean-up ensued. Additionally, the scope of statutory tools, such as EIS under the Tasmanian Marine Farm Planning Act 1995, is not regional and does not consider the compound interactions of and on production activities. A good example is the recent Storm Bay salmon farming expansion; while the EPBC listed handfish species in Tasmania were listed in the marine farming development plan, with a brief context, management of these species was not considered in the EIS because that process only includes direct impact of the lease position. Arguably, cumulative impacts from all development in the area will have varying impacts on the species, impacts which are not being considered under current government legislation, but are potentially the source of public ire. For aquaculture to pursue sustainable efforts environmentally, economically and socially in the increasingly crowded near shore space requires proactive planning and transparency that is not currently possible given existing assessment tools. In particular, assessment of cumulative impacts must be addressed. Cumulative impact assessments (CIA) are gaining momentum across multiple industries due to a recognised need to apply them in the pursuit of sustainable management. CIAs are being undertaken with the protection of marines resources at front of mind, but so far there has been little consideration of aquaculture. An approach to CIA that makes aquaculture the centre point is required if we are to consider its impacts or conversely, its effectiveness.
1. Identify the risks of multiple actions or impacts on the environment and social values of a marine production matrix in Australian waters. In order to do this a comprehensive literature review is required to develop the CIA approach and ensure the methods and gaps in aquaculture CIA are addressed to meet the needs of Australian aquaculture, the community and the consumer.
2. Develop a risk assessment tool that can be utilised by the public realm (governments at all levels, NFPS, community) to better understand the complexities of regional marine waters and user impacts to maximise current and future economic, social and environmental benefits. To do this requires identification of valued environmental and social components first, whereby such components are characterised, from this a framework is build on each valued component.
3. Assess aquaculture in the context of broader social and environmental issues within the marine production matrix, by performing an aquaculture specific cumulative impacts assessment for regional Australia