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Blunt force trauma a factor in half of Tassal’s seal deaths, report shows

Blunt force trauma a factor in half of Tassal’s seal deaths, report shows

Newly released paperwork inform a Tasmanian authorities staff member called for an investigation into the procedures and requirements of staff at aquaculture giant Tassal after the death of a seal in 2018.

Key points:

  • Paperwork from an RTI inquire of on the employ of seal deterrents by salmon farmers reveal of maiming, death and seal injuries resulting in euthanasia
  • Blunt force trauma has been identified as a factor in half of all reported seal deaths
  • Calls have been made to investigate the latest tradition and attitude towards seals at salmon giant Tassal

WARNING: This anecdote contains images and descriptions which may cause harm

Early Newspaper

The paperwork also inform the quantity of seals that are killed and injured as a result of the approved and legislated employ of deterrents is vulnerable to be considerable larger than reported.

The paperwork have been released following a Lawful to Information (RTI) inquire of on the employ of seal deterrents faded by salmon farm giants Tassal, Huon Aquaculture and Petuna.

They inform a quantity of investigations have been made by the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Ambiance (DPIPWE) into the deaths of seals in and around salmon leases across the state.

Seal on a metal landing platform.

Look work on seals living near marine farming zones came across a larger percentage of injured and debilitated seals than in various populations.(

Equipped: DPIPWE


Call for investigation after seal death

The investigation started in 2018 after a seal was came across dead on a Tassal fish containment pen at Nubeena, alleged to be caused by a scare cap dart that was came across within the abdominal cavity and intestines of the animal.

DPIPWE wildlife biologist Sam Thalmann, who performed a necropsy on the seal, indicated to his colleagues via email that, “the dart had penetrated the skin and torn via the small intestines of the seal” and was located and clearly identified in the “small intestines”.

“It’s certainly my understanding that they have been strongly of the impact that this death occurred via “normal” mitigation activities and deployment of deterrent devices.

Wildlife biologist Sam Thalmann wears a beanie and blue jumper.

Natural world biologist Sam Thalmann believes the reported seal injuries and deaths are largely underrepresented.(

ABC News: Manika Champ


“Given the final result of this incident, the latest tradition and attitude of the staff, in association with an unknown quantity of seal deaths and subsequent identification into cause of death, I think that some acquire of investigation into the procedures, adherence to a minimum requirements (ie minimum distance) and identification of the kind of firearm (and available pressures) for deploying these darts is required. “

The paperwork inform that a situation of the allow for fish farmers to employ seal deterrent devices states that seal scare caps may level-headed no longer be discharged when a seal is within 5 metres of the allow holder.

Blunt force trauma factor in half of deaths

The paperwork inform that in the 2018 calendar year as a lot as October, Mr Thalmann recorded 34 dead marine mammal reports from the aquaculture industry.

It’s documented that Mr Thalmann believes the findings are likely “a large underestimate of the percentage of seals that die as a result of approved and legislated deterrent employ”.

“That is also likely a large underestimate as many seals with injury/penetrating wounds resulting from deterrents would leave the area and die begin air of the lease area,” he wrote.

Photo of beanbag ammunition used by salmon producers to deter fur seals.

Bean bag ammunition is faded by salmon producers to discourage fur seals.(

Equipped: DPIPWE


“I can personally testify that this appears to be the case as having performed latest search for work around seal haul-outs adjacent to marine farming zones, I have celebrated a percentage of injured and debilitated seals in significant larger densities than can be anticipated to occur at a wild haul-out.”

The paperwork also inform the authorities department issued 789 seal deterrent permits over a three-year period.

Over this era, aquaculture giant Tassal faded 55,798 seal crackers and 3,647 rounds of bean bags against seals, Huon Aquaculture faded 16,008 crackers and 315 rounds of bean bags to discourage the seals and Petuna faded 3,533 seal crackers and no bean bags.

Following the findings from the necropsies, Mr Thalmann had email correspondence with his colleagues at DPIPWE to indicate the department implement a quantity of actions, including the banning of “scare-cap devices from firearms with multiple energy settings” and additional investigations to determine what tissue damage may result from scare-caps and bean bags on seals.

Seal euthanased after shooting injury 

The paperwork also confirmed in September 2019, a seal was reported to be injured but alive at a Tassal marine farming lease at Tinderbox.

An investigation into the incident indicated the seal was trying to access a fish pen when a DPIPWE wildlife ranger attempted to contain the seal in an empty fish pen and then trap or sedate the seal to take it from the pen and transfer it to a holding cage.

The paperwork indicate the seal was efficiently trapped and transferred to Tassal’s onshore facility at Electrona sooner than it was examined the following morning.

Fur seal with tail of a beanbag-type projectile in its eye.

A fur seal with the tail of a bean bag projectile lodged in its heed. (

Equipped: DPIPWE


In a single day, the seal had vomited a significant amount of partly digested farmed salmon and on additional examination, the seal had the tail of a beanbag hanging from between the eyelids of the closed left heed.

Natural world officers said during email correspondence that, “there was obvious swelling of the soft tissues of the left heed, nonetheless, there was discharge weeping from the heed.”

It’s documented that the beanbag projectile lodged in its heed caused permanent ocular damage and the animal was euthanased the following day.

Beanbags are lead-filled projectiles encased in a Kevlar bag that are fired to discourage seals from marine farm staff and associated infrastructure.

In email correspondence, DPIPWE staff celebrated a conversation with Tassal about the incident, in which it was alleged the Tassal staff member said he was aware of the incident and indicated that there had been an internal investigation into the matter.

But it absolutely was came across to be unintentional as it is “hard, as they are fast” and no internal disciplinary action was to be undertaken.

The paperwork inform DPIPWE staff indicated this incident to be a compliance area on two fronts. At the start, they said: “Beanbags may level-headed never be discharged towards the head of a seal.”

And secondly, they claimed it is a allow requirement that injuries caused to seals are reported to a DPIPWE contact officer within one hour of the occasion, but it absolutely is alleged this particular injury was no longer called in within the time frame.

Seals ‘swim off and die slowly’

Ambiance Tasmania said the novel paperwork confirmed there wants to be an investigation by the integrity commission around the salmon industry’s treatment of seals.

An injured seal being euthanased.

An injured seal being euthanased.(

Equipped: DPIPWE


“Members of the public have been finding the seals. Some had heed wounds, some had gashes to their skin, some of them have been too frail to reveal what was going on.”

She said whereas authorities representatives continue to remind the industry of their obligations, there need to be changes to practices.

“One of the disorders we’re really apprehensive about is the misuse of the weaponry that the salmon farmers are using on the seals,” Ms Middleton said.

“One of the concerns raised in the RTI papers is there was an attitude and tradition amongst the staff at the time [of one of the seal deaths] that indicated that this was normal, this was an anticipated final result, this was par for the path and none of them have been greatly surprised.”

A woman standing outside.

Jilly Middleton says she’s apprehensive about the misuse of the weaponry the salmon farmers are using on the seals(

ABC News: Alison Costelloe


Industry committed to compliance, says Tassal

A spokesperson for Tassal said the company’s primary effort is exclusion and that they earn no longer leer to engage with wildlife aside from when necessary.

“On the alternative hand, we earn operate in wild environments, and occasional wildlife interactions earn occur.”

“Tassal is committed to compliance with all regulations regarding seal and wildlife management around our operational areas.”

“We publicly report on our interactions with wildlife via our online sustainability reporting dashboard.”

The aquaculture giant said they dedicate sources to animal welfare and farm practices, including a $90 million rollout of sanctuary pens to give a increase to the exclusion of wildlife.

“The welfare of each our fish and the marine mammals and birds that interact with our farms is of critical importance to us.”

The Minister for Primary Industries and Assets Guy Barnett said he was unaware of the findings came across in the RTI paperwork about seal deaths and deterrents.

“We have a seal management plan and a framework that operates across the salmon and fishing industry, it is an important framework and it may level-headed be abided by,” Mr Barnett said.

“Animal welfare is a top priority for our authorities, it is a very severe matter.”

Blunt force trauma a factor in half of Tassal’s seal deaths, report shows