Native seals are maimed and killed
The sheer volume of fish caught by commercial fishing vessels naturally draws seals. Seen as a nuisance by fishermen, horrific techniques have been used to try and ‘deter’ marine animals from ‘stealing’ their catch.
One of these methods is the use of ‘seal bombs’ – an explosive device that is ignited and thrown in the water. The sound of the blast carries for kilometres and the blast way can be damaging if nearby, causing trauma or even death to any marine life that is in close vicinity.
Another method used by the aquaculture industry is the use of beanbag bullets. These consist of hard pellets wrapped in a cloth sock and fired from a shotgun. Beanbag bullets are associated with riot control but are commonly used to deter marine life away from fish farms. Official documents have revealed that over 8,700 ‘beanbag’ bullets have been fired at seals and sea lions around aquaculture sites since 2013 – including incidents where seals have been blinded, deafened, and severely injured as a direct result.
According to government data, 23 seal deaths occurred on Tasmanian salmon farms in just over a year (from the start of 2021 until the end of March 2022). One company alone, Huon Aquaculture, used 8,057 underwater explosives against seals in that period, and was responsible for 18 of the 23 seals who were killed.
Government wildlife biologist, Sam Thalmann, pointed out in a document released to Environment Tasmania that reported estimated seal deaths by salmon companies were likely underestimated, as seals injured by deterrents would leave the area and could die elsewhere. This means the number of seals suffering and dying could be even higher.