Tasmanian Salmon Guide: Everything You Need to Know

 

Despite the dubious reputation of Tasmanian salmon, the island state’s pristine waters still play home to some beautiful local fisheries, as well as fantastic small-scale fishers pushing local seafood in the right direction. Here is everything you need to know about Tasmanian salmon, and where to find the best Tasmanian salmon substitutes around Tassie.

Salmon Farming in Tasmania

Tasmanian salmon: what went wrong

Tasmanian Salmon is a big global brand – but it wasn’t always that way.  Essentially all Tasmanian salmon is farmed in ocean cages, and the vast majority of Tasmanian salmon is Atlantic salmon. Unsurprisingly, given its name, Atlantic salmon is not native to Tasmania (in fact, it’s not naturally found anywhere beyond the chilly waters of the North Atlantic, in a region stretching between North America and Northern Europe).

This species was initially introduced to Australia in the mid-1800s, as fertilised eggs from the UK, in the hope of establishing wild sea-run populations. Which never really took off. The practice of growing these species in enclosed cages and pens, however, was introduced to Tasmania about a century later, in 1986. With much greater success.

Along the way, people became greedy, and things got dirty. 

In the late 1980s, only a handful of boutique operations were farming Atlantic Tasmanian salmon as an experimental project. On the back of profitable early results – not to mention strong government support and a massive marketing operation, farming has expanded relentlessly, booming into an almost $1billion-a-year industry by 2020. This growth has been backed by multinational companies promoting the island state’s clean, green image.

Salmon Farms

Environmental Impact

Most Tasmanian salmon farms operate in shallow inshore waters – such as Macquarie Harbour – and they have increased both in number and concentration over the years. Such areas have also recorded increasingly alarming levels of bacteria and toxins in the water, resulting from the build-up of effluent underneath fish farm pens, wherein huge schools of fish are crammed into a relatively small space.

Increased nitrogen levels in the water, has led to damaging algal blooms and the disappearance of many local marine species such as leatherjacket, abalone, and kelp. The nutritional quality of the fish has suffered significantly, too, with reputed lower levels of omega-3 and high-quality protein over the years.

There have even been scientific reports linking salmon farming to an increase of mercury in the salmon itself, as well as the appearance of several neurotoxins in local waterways and water supply chains.

But don’t worry – it doesn’t have to be all bad news!

How the Tasmanian salmon industry can improve 

Despite all this, Tasmanian salmon farming still has a bright, or at least big, future. Plans to expand the industry even further have been put forward by government and companies. The best way to achieve this future bsome experts say, is to transition towards getting these toxic, intensive salmon farms out of the pristine waters and having closed-loop salmon farms on land.

This solution isn’t perfect. But such operations would go a long way towards eliminating the devastating impacts of Tasmanian salmon farms on local waterways and the local community. Instead, the suitable climate and high local water quality that helped Tasmanian salmon receive its world-renowned reputation could still be put to good use in creating a premium, sustainable local product. 

Support ‘good’ Tasmanian salmon 

At the moment, it’s difficult – if not impossible – to find any Tasmanian salmon that isn’t farmed in such destructive and unhealthy conditions. The transition to on-land Tasmanian salmon farming will be gradual. However, you can make a statement of support towards cleaning up the industry by making one simple choice: reach for the other kinds of local fish that are just as good as – and currently much better for everybody than – Tasmanian salmon!

Land based salmon farming trials

The best Tasmanian salmon substitutes to eat:

Tasmanian salmon is a popular ingredient in many recipes and on many restaurant menus. However, if you want to make a better choice when dining out on your Tasmanian road trip, or while heading to a local fish or farmers market and cooking up a storm at your holiday-home hideaway, then support a better version of the Tasmanian salmon industry by reaching for one of these tasty alternatives:

Leatherjacket

A beloved local favourite for recreational fishers, leatherjacket is often best when simply pan fried in butter. However, keep an eye out for local restaurants and chefs offering other delicious incarnations: whether grilled whole over coals, or added to spicy Asian curries and hearty soups or stews (for which their firm flesh holds up well).

Snapper

This is technically not a traditional local species, with snapper only moving further south from warmer climes in recent years, with the rising sea temperatures. However, now that stocks are arriving and thriving in good numbers in certain local fisheries, red snapper are becoming a tasty addition to local, wild-caught Tasmanian seafood menus. Fresh snapper sliced raw as sashimi is an enticing option!

Eat sustainable seafood in Tasmania

Flathead

Probably the most iconic local fish species, sand flathead are by far the most common species caught by recreational fishers in Tasmania (where these bottom-dwelling fish naturally thrive in big numbers, close to shore). It is a mild, slightly sweet fish, which is delicious simply pan fried or grilled with the skin on. It’s firm, fatty, scalloped flesh also makes it great for steaming and poaching. 

Australian Mackerel:

A small, schooling fish species, common jack mackerel have historically been used primarily for bait and fish meal. However, more and more people are discovering the joys of eating these tasty, highly nutritious, highly sustainable species, too. Simply grilled whole, over the barbecue, served with a squeeze of lemon and eaten whole is hard to beat!

Blue eye trevalla:

A beautiful cooking fish, blue eye trevalla is the gem of many a Tasmanian seafood restaurant menu. They are big, thick-bodied fish who thrive in sub-Antarctic and southern waters all year round in healthy numbers, making them very popular for commercial fishers (despite some by-catch issues). The flesh is firm, keeping its shape well whether being baked, fried, grilled or barbecued, and its mild, delicate taste combines well with other strong flavours, making it a common crowd-pleaser. 

If you’re visiting Tasmania and keen to try one of these local varieties, you can find specific spots to pick up delicious local seafood in FLT’s seafood guide to Tasmania and guide to local Tasmanian beer, as well as articles outlining recommended restaurants and eateries to visit in both Hobart and Launceston

Take a look at FLT’s dedicated Tasmania travel page, which offers some pre-arranged self-drive itineraries as well as the option to speak directly with local FLT travel experts, who can help you plan your own customised Tasmanian itinerary.

 

David Mckenzie
By
David Mckenzie
: 21 Jun 2022 (Last updated: 21 Jun 2022)

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