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Tasmania's salmon farmers on new Patagonia film: No communication, and 'no reference to the facts'

The film centers in on defense of a surf break in Tasmania's north, where no plans have been made to set up farms, producers tell IntraFish.

US clothing giant Patagonia's most recent attack on the global salmon farming industry has proved baffling to Tasmania salmon producers, none of whom were contacted at any point before, during or after the making of the film, they told IntraFish.

Tassal, Huon and Petuna, who between them own the majority of Australia's salmon farming industry, and are all based on the southern island of Tasmania, were given no notice of the film's production and were asked no questions by Patagonia, which has already released longer films condemning the Chilean salmon farming sector and the system of wild-salmon hatcheries in Alaska and other parts of the United States.

"It is sad to think Patagonia would produce something that clearly seeks to promote its own agenda as an environmental ‘champion’, while blatantly ignoring the facts, which we report publicly, and failing to acquire accurate information from the industry."
Ruben Alvarez, CEO, Petuna

The outdoor clothing company's latest film "Saving Martha" zones in on Tasmania's salmon industry with little point of reference aside from the opinions of New Zealand actor and surfer Dave Rastovich, who, shot among scenes of rolling waves juxtaposed against "Keep Out" signs and barbed wire, tells the audience that he doesn't eat farmed salmon because it is "pumped full of antibiotics" and not in its natural environment.

"Whatever is going on in these pens, these bays that are quite secluded and tucked away are not something the industry is that proud of. If they were I'm sure they'd be sharing it with a lot of people," he claims.

Surfing vs salmon

The film's title "Saving Martha" is a reference to the famed Martha Lavinia surf break on the northwest coast of King Island in Tasmania's north, which environmentalists tell Rastovich is under threat from salmon farming.

But in an email to IntraFish, Huon Corporate Communications and Community Relations Manager Pene Snashall said the company "has publicly stated we have zero intention of farming anywhere off the North West Coast of Tas including the waters surrounding King Island, and that position remains unchanged."

"It is disappointing that Patagonia makes judgement on Tasmanian salmon farming practices without reference to the facts, which are publicly available, without speaking to any of the companies or without visiting a salmon farm in Tasmania," said Snashall.

Petuna CEO Ruben Alvarez said the film contained "alarming mistruths," including numerous false claims around antibiotics, calling the fish "toxic" and claiming that "everything underneath the pens is dying".

"The objective is clearly to scaremonger," he told IntraFish.

"It is sad to think Patagonia would produce something that clearly seeks to promote its own agenda as an environmental ‘champion’, while blatantly ignoring the facts, which we report publicly, and failing to acquire accurate information from the industry."

Tassal spokesman Nick Turner confirmed that the company had not been contacted by Patagonia, but did not wish to comment on the contents of the film.

The film will be screened across Australia throughout July.

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