At least 50,000 salmon have escaped into the wild following a fire at fish farm in southern Tasmania.
Huon Aquaculture said the fire broke out late last night (UK time), melting part of the pen and allowing the fish to slip through into the open sea.
“The fire damaged approximately a third of a pen, burning through and melting the pen infrastructure above and just below the waterline,” the company said in a statement.
Peter Bender, Huon Aquaculture CEO, said the fire melted the infrastructure and has resulted in a fish loss at Huon’s Zuidpool lease.
“He estimated that the company had lost between 50,000 – 52,000 4kg fish and in accordance with its reporting requirements it had notified the necessary marine authorities.
He continued: “This number has been ascertained by conducting a count of the remaining fish by using one of Huon’s wellboats.
“The calm weather enabled crews to thoroughly search the surrounding area including shorelines to retrieve any pen components that had come adrift during the fire. “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.”
He added: “An investigation into the cause of the fire is underway and we are not ruling anything out at this early stage, and we encourage anyone who saw the fire to contact us.”
Bender also pointed out that as Tasmania has no native salmonids, there would be no harmful impact on wild fish stocks or marine fauna, an issue that can create problems when salmon escape in the northern hemisphere.
Founded in 1986, Huon Aquaculture has grown to become the second largest salmon farmer in Tasmania employing over 500 people and producing around 25,000 tonnes a year.