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Question: Giant Cuttlefish

10 June 2021

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (15:03): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question without notice to the minister representing the Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, the Treasurer, on the topic of giant cuttlefish in Whyalla.

Leave granted.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Last week, it was reported that Whyalla council approved Point Lowly marina access to Clean Seas Seafood to set up a major kingfish farm in nearby Fitzgerald Bay. This approval has come despite major concerns from the community and council about the impact on the world famous giant Australian cuttlefish population.

Clean Seas has been attempting to gain access to the Point Lowly marina since 2019 but had repeatedly been blocked by the council. Last week's approval will allow it to move its first fingerlings into Fitzgerald Bay before the end of the year.

Whyalla Mayor Clare McLaughlin said the council risked losing control of the state government owned marina if it rejected the latest bid. The council has said they feel they have no choice but to approve marina access, with the mayor stating that if they rejected the bid the state government would take back control and pass it on to a third, unknown party.

My question to the Treasurer is: with up to 200,000 cuttlefish that gather in the area to breed from May to August each year, what will the state government be doing to ensure that the pristine Fitzgerald Bay marine environment is not compromised by the approvals they have granted?

The Hon. R.I. LUCAS (Treasurer) (15:04): The minister has advised me that the Department of Primary Industries and Regions is responsible for the regulation and management of the aquaculture industry in accordance with the act and that the assessment of individual aquaculture licence applications follows a strict set of guidelines and a risk-based assessment based on national best practice. For this particular proposed aquaculture operation at Fitzgerald Bay, a comprehensive ecologically sustainable development risk assessment report was undertaken, along with consideration of the most recent scientific advice and published research.

The applications, I am advised, were also referred to the EPA for approval, as is required by the act, to ensure the proposals meet the objectives of the Environment Protection Act 1993 and associated environment protection policies. These include the Environment Protection (Water Quality) Policy from 2015.

With appropriate mitigation measures and environmental monitoring programs in place, the risk assessment determined that Clean Seas' applications in Fitzgerald Bay rated as a low risk. To inform the assessment of the Fitzgerald Bay applications, I am told that SARDI undertook oceanographic modelling in 2018 to demonstrate the spatial footprint of aquaculture-related nutrients and other derived organic matter in the Upper Spencer Gulf.

I am further advised that these studies demonstrated nutrient levels are expected to remain well below the Australian and New Zealand Environment Conservation Council 2000 water quality guideline trigger values. The SARDI modelling, I am told, demonstrates a negligible to minimal impact of aquaculture to the west and south of Point Lowly, which is particularly important, I am sure, not only to the honourable member but to others, given the desire of government to protect the giant Australian cuttlefish which aggregate annually south of Point Lowly.

After the assessment, the EPA supported the granting of aquaculture licences to Clean Seas. The minister has provided further detailed information indicating the extent of the work that was done and sharing in the concerns about the potential impacts, but they have undertaken the tasks as they are required to by law.