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A third of the pen was damaged by the fire, which burned through and melted the pen infrastructure above and just below the waterline. Photo: Huon Aquaculture.
A third of the pen was damaged by the fire, which burned through and melted the pen infrastructure above and just below the waterline. Photo: Huon Aquaculture.

The 50,000-plus salmon that escaped from a Huon Aquaculture site in Tasmania after a pen caught fire had an average weight of 4kg, the company said in a stock exchange statement today.

The fish loss number of 50-52,000 from Huon’s Zuidpool North lease in the D’Entrecasteaux Channel  was ascertained by conducting a count of the remaining fish using a wellboat and represents well under 1% of the company’s current fish stocks.

A total of 50,000 fish weighing 4kg works out at 200 tonnes live weight.

This fire on the pen allowed around 50,000 salmon to escape. Photo: Huon Aquaculture.
This fire on the pen allowed around 50,000 salmon to escape. Photo: Huon Aquaculture.

Baffled by cause

“We have electrical equipment on our pens, but in 35 years of farming we have never had an electrical fire on a fish pen so the cause has baffled us,” stated managing director and chief executive Peter Bender.

He said studies of previous fish escapes along with a 2018 Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS) survey indicated it was unlikely the salmon escapees would have any impact on native marine fauna.

No native salmonids

“The IMAS survey was consistent with previous studies (here and overseas) where farmed salmon generally don’t appear to feed on native species as they are typically used to feeding on fish pellets.

“Tasmania has no native salmonids so there is no impact on wild genetic stocks.”

The cause of the fire is being investigated. There were no injuries and only minor disruption to operations because of the incident. Based on a preliminary assessment, Huon believes there will be minimal impact on the results of the company.