On the north coast of Tasmania’s King Island, there’s a surf spot that’s been touted as one of Australia’s best beachbreaks. Martha Lavinia–a stretch of immaculate, bone-white sand, peppered with kegging A-frames–has served as a high-performance playground for both local and visiting surfers for the past few decades. The spot landed on the cover of SURFER magazine back in 2008, and since then has starred in banger edits like Craig Anderson’s “Welcome Elsewhere.”
But recently this pristine barrel haven has attracted more than just enthused wave riders–and not in a good way. Tassal, an Australian salmon farming company (whose practices have gone under recent investigation due to raised environmental and health concerns), has been granted a permit to start researching the possibility of establishing a salmon farm immediately east of Martha’s.
According to Saves the Waves Coalition, who, alongside the Surfrider Foundation, has been in protest against the potential fish farm, the Tasmanian salmon industry is the largest branch of fisheries in Australia. Salmon farming alone makes a whopping $625.9 million-dollar contribution to Tasmania’s economy, and annual harvest production is expected to double by 2030. And while the new King Island project could create jobs and improve the local economy, many believe the potential costs of such an infrastructure would far outweigh the possible benefits.
The laundry list of conceivable environmental threats that could materialize as a result of the new farm is exhaustive. For one, farming can produce a gross amount of pollution, like uneaten fish food, fish feces, urine and residue from net-cleaning–much of which settles along the seabed, and through a chain of chemical events, can reduce oxygen in the water that prevents flora and fish from thriving. Not to mention the project could pose a risk to endangered species native to the area.
In addition to harming the marine and littoral ecosystems, there’s a scary chance the farm could disrupt the mind-blogging good wedges the spot is most known for. According to Surfrider, the structures beneath the water’s surface (possibly 22 pens that could produce up to million fish) could stymie the strength of incoming waves and change the swell wraps around the island. Plus, the construction could also alter the flow of sand and the quality of the banks.
Throughout the past couple weeks, pro surfers and photographers all around the world have been voicing their opposition to the project. Two-time World Champ Tom Carroll posted a video on the Save Martha Lavinia Facebook page, urging local legislators to rethink their decision. “It’s the most beautiful beach I’ve ever been on,” he said.
Shortly after winning the Da Hui Backdoor Shootout, Jamie O’Brien too took to social media to speak out. “That place is some of the funnest waves I’ve ever surfed, an absolutely stunning place, great food, just one of those places that you should leave it how it is and let the kids and everyone else enjoy what we got to enjoy,” said O’Brien. “I hope to go back there soon and hopefully you [local government] don’t ruin the beautiful thing you guys have.”
Surfrider and Save the Waves are trying to gather 25,000 signatures to help keep King Island a salmon-farm-free zone. At the time of this writing, they’re still down 7,000 or so signatures, so head their Change.org page if you feel so inclined to supply your John Hancock. Or, for the more politically active, let the Tasmanian Government know your concerns by contacting one of the following: Hon Jeremy Rockliff, Minister for Primary Industries at firstname.lastname@example.org; Hon Elise Archer, Minister for Environment and Parks at email@example.com.