Historian, author and proud Tasmanian, Naomi Parry, reviews Richard Flanagan’s damning new book, Toxic: The Rotting Underbelly of the Tasmanian Salmon Industry.
A Tassal spokesman responded to news of this book by saying Richard Flanagan is well-known as a writer of fiction. That is true, but Tassal, Huon and Petuna should remember that he is a trained historian and Rhodes Scholar. This meticulously researched and footnoted book is no work of literature.
Those who have read up on industrial farming will be familiar with the pollution and disease resulting from salmon aquaculture, both overseas and in Tasmania. Flanagan is not the first to point out the cruelty of confining and genetically engineering an intelligent fish. Nor is he the first to point out that aquaculture does nothing to preserve wild fish, but actually plunders them for feed, or that this feed is supplemented with soy beans from deforested landscapes in South America. Nor is he the first to point out that the fish has almost no nutritional value, and is dyed pink with petrochemicals.
What Flanagan does is localise this story. Tasmanian governments have always relied on extractive industries and for more than 30 years the government has turned a blind eye to the ecological death that is spreading from below fish farms and taking over all the waterways and freshwater resources that are part of the commons and culture of Tasmanians.
Tasmanian salmon farming is worse than Norwegian and Scottish farming and this book, along with a film by Justin Kurzel and Conor Castles-Lynch, is a wakeup call. The Tasmanian Government, re-elected on Saturday, will not regulate this industry or undo this damage. The only power we have is as consumers; we must choose not to eat farmed Tasmanian salmon.
A longer extract and link to the documentary by Justin Kurzel and Conor Castles-Lynch as appeared in The Monthly can be found here.
Richard Flanagan, Toxic: The Rotting Underbelly of the Tasmanian Salmon Industry
Penguin, 2021 RRP $24.99
ISBN: 978 1 76104 437 3