Tassal is in a position where it is has become necessary to re-evaluate the measures taken for seal management and has made a commitment to zero destruction. Although relocation is used as an interim, it is recognised by all parties that this is a costly and temporary solution. Relocation carries the risk of alienating important stakeholders such as recreational and commercial fishers, who are negatively impacted by the process.
Despite the increased attention and budget dedicated to this issue, seal strikes, trappings and relocations continue to increase. Seal interactions have on numerous occasions resulted in documented and medically treated injuries and have presented, through aggressive and threatening behaviour, an unacceptable OH&S risk to marine farm employees. In order to resolve this challenging issue, a systematic co-ordinated approach is needed, with the trial and implementation of new exclusion and deterrent methods a priority.
Tassal has employed Wildlife Management Officers, whose sole responsibility is to audit and manage seal interactions, and continues to look for improved forms of exclusion technology and to gain an increased understanding of seal behaviour. As protocols dictate, Tassal works with the DPIPWE Wildlife Management Branch to evaluate new exclusion equipment.
The monofilament nets currently being used are easy for seals to breach and kikko nets have proven successful in exclusion on a small scale. It is essential that Tassal trials kikko nets in full scale commercial conditions, at high risk sites before committing to company wide implementation. Kikko nets are a significant departure from current technology and due to the expensive nature of the product, a considerable increase in overhead costs would result. Full scale trials must take place to ensure the nets are a viable investment, as there is the possibility that they will not be successful in exclusion when implemented across an entire lease.