Aquaculture Magazine

Talking Point: Swimming upstream on fish farms

The health of our salmon, and the environment in which we farm, is critically important to us. The reputation of the independent scientists we use to inform our decisions, and the reputation of Tassal and our employees, is just as important.

Australia: We were disappointed with the way the ABC’s Four Corners program recently reported on our global leading Tasmanian salmon industry.

The health of our salmon, and the environment in which we farm, is critically important to us. The reputation of the independent scientists we use to inform our decisions, and the reputation of Tassal and our employees, is just as important.

While I think correcting some of the misleading commentary broadcast this week is required, I equally wanted to write this column for our 1200-strong workforce and their families around the state who are proud to work for Tassal.

Sustainability is a priority for Tassal. Equally important is transparency across our business. We publish an annual sustainability report and have been recognised as the No. 1 company globally for sustainability reporting in salmon and seafood companies by the respected

From a Tassal perspective, we are proud of our sustainable farming achievements, including achieving Aquaculture Stewardship Council certification across all our marine leases. ASC accreditation is the gold standard for salmon farming in the world. Tassal achieved it in 2014, including chain of custody certification across all of our processing facilities.

It provides consumers with an external, independent assurance (Tassal is audited by independent certification and assessment bodies that are monitored by Accreditation Services International) that they are buying seafood from farms that manage their impacts on the environment and communities to this high standard. Importantly, our supply chain from raw materials for fish feed through to the processing of our salmon is certified as coming from sustainable sources.

Consumer confidence in our product is critical. It is why we place such importance on the ASC accreditation and want to promote it widely. Third-party accreditation is underpinned by a rigorous audit process. Not everyone can achieve ASC certification.

As reported by Four Corners, Tassal pays auditing fees to the independent auditors, just as we pay fees to the accounting firm that audits our financial statements.

ASC certification has been achieved across all our marine farms, including those in Macquarie Harbour on the West Coast, that have been the focus of community debate this week. In fact, Macquarie Harbour marine leases were the first to be ASC-certified.

Petuna, which farms in Macquarie Harbour alongside Tassal, has also achieved this accreditation. We welcome this as it allows our Tasmanian salmon industry to be globally recognised as best practice.

WWF Australia, with whom we partner on our sustainability journey, is a respected and trusted environmental organisation. It is on record stating it wants to build on the improved performance of the industry in Tasmania by ensuring all salmon farms meet the ASC standard. We support that. WWF Australia believes in the ASC framework, recognising it as the highest global standard for responsibly farmed seafood. This is confirmed by the fact you cannot display the WWF panda logo on product packaging without it. ASC accreditation is why you will see the highly recognisable logo on Tassal salmon.

There is no question that Macquarie Harbour is a complex environment that presents challenges. We all agree on that. I respect that some people have their own views on the sustainability of Macquarie Harbour, but our view — when taking account of our own leases and on the harbour more broadly — is that, if adaptively managed, it is a sustainable waterway in which to grow salmon.

Tassal chief executive Mark Ryan says he is disappointed with the recent ABC’s Four Corners program.
One of my big criticisms of the Four Corners program centres on its reporting of Macquarie Harbour “issues”.

I was very disappointed that proper consideration of the relevant science was not taken into account, and that a competitor’s scientific research, only on its leases, was presented as evidence of the sustainability of the whole of the harbour. Research by other scientists was not broadcast, which is disappointing because they also wanted to tell their story.

Heat stress and low dissolved oxygen was an issue last summer because of the abnormal weather conditions. That is a fact. But because of the way we managed stocking plans and our adaptive management strategy, Tassal fish health was excellent in the harbour and survival rates were above other areas in the state. These points alone provide some important context to the overall debate.

Understandably, Tassal is committed to the community of Strahan and keeping jobs in the local community.

I reassure the Strahan community and the West Coast, as well as stakeholders, we will continue to manage leases in Macquarie Harbour and across Tasmania for the long-term health of our business, the environment, our salmon, and the wellbeing of our employees.

Tassal has no issue with media groups such as the ABC questioning the sustainability and transparency of our business. I have been asked this week why Tassal participated in the program. As I mentioned at the outset, transparency across our business is important to the company.

I can guarantee Mercury readers that Tassal remains strongly committed to improving our farming practices, protecting Tasmania’s marine environment, supporting our employees, and producing a healthy premium and food safe product for consumers.


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