The Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) is calling for more effective environmental regulation of finfish farming after the population of rare maugean skate in Macquarie Harbour almost halved in seven years. [1]

Using catch per unit effort (CPUE) as a measure of relative abundance, Researchers at the University of Tasmania’s Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies found a substantial decline in CPUE between 2014 and 2021 of 47%.

The report authors we so alarmed by the rate of decline they produced an interim report sounding the alarm.

An alliance of conservation, science and legal groups is now calling on the Federal Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek to intervene to protect the species.

“Macquarie Harbour is a case study in how our environmental laws are letting down the environment and the community,” said EDO Tasmania Managing Lawyer Claire Bookless.

“Since the expansion of salmon farming in Macquarie Harbour, Government agencies and researchers have been monitoring the endangered Maugean Skate to the brink of extinction.

“The EPA has been responsible for regulating the salmon industry since dead zones were discovered on the bottom of Macquarie Harbour in 2017, but this has not improved the environmental outcomes for the harbour or for the skate in any meaningful way. 

“Where the science leaves any room for doubt, the EPA makes decisions that favour of the salmon industry over the environment.

“The Tasmanian Government’s proposed new environmental standards for salmon farms do not, in any way, resolve the problems at the heart of salmon farming regulation in this state.

“The science is clear. Salmon farm pollution in Macquarie Harbour is one of the greatest threats to the skate’s long-term survival.

“The skate can’t wait for the Tasmanian Government to bring its finfish farming standards up to scratch.

“That’s why we support calls for Federal Environment Minister Tanya Pilbersek, to step in to protect this prehistoric species and the World Heritage-Listed Macquarie Harbour from further harm.”

Earlier this year, EDO made a detailed submission to the Tasmania Government’s draft environmental standards for finfish farming that argued the proposed standards would weaken already inadequate environmental standards and put Tasmania’s prized coastal waters and marine wildlife at greater risk. [2] 

Marine scientists, policy specialists and the Environmental Defenders Office are all urging the government to discard the draft standards, go back to the drawing board. 


[1] “Using catch per unit effort (CPUE) as a measure of relative abundance, we demonstrated a substantial decline in CPUE between 2014 and 2021 of 47%.” Page 1, Interim report – Macquarie Harbour Maugean skate population status and monitoring, David Moreno and Jayson Semmens, Universty of Tasmania/Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies,  2/05/2023

[2] Proposed marine fish farming regulations put Tassie coastal waters and marine wildlife at great risk, EDO, 30-3-23.


James Tremain | 0419 272 254