- The company acquires Tassal Group, Australia’s largest vertically integrated seafood producer
The Superior Court of the State of Washington, in the United States (US) granted some days ago the motion filed by Cooke Aquaculture Pacific against the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and Hilary Franz, the Commissioner of Public Lands, to extend the deadline to safely harvest steelhead trout and remove equipment at the Rich Passage and Hope Island fish farms in Puget Sound until April 14.
According to Cooke, the company operates its farm sites according to carefully coordinated farm management plans, with employee safety being its top priority. For them, significant changes in harvest schedules can both increase safety risks for employees and disruptions for customers.
“The arbitrary timelines originally set forth by DNR were impossible to meet without exposing Cooke employees to dangerous winter working conditions, increasing perceived environmental risks, and causing significant financial harm,” they said.
Ensure safe working conditions
Cooke sought this preliminary injunction to protect its employees and ensure safe working conditions. “We are grateful that the Court granted our request as this extension gives our employees the flexibility required in a marine environment to ensure safe working conditions. Cooke can now remove the fish on its original harvest schedule and properly remove our equipment without subjecting employees to unnecessary risk,” they reported in a press release.
On a different note, and some weeks ago, the company reported that Cooke, parent company of Cooke Aquaculture of New Brunswick, Canada, announced the completion of its acquisition of Tassal Group (TGR) of Australia, under which Cooke (via a wholly-owned Australian subsidiary) has acquired all outstanding shares of Tassal for AUD AUD 5.23 per share in cash by way of a scheme of arrangement or a total enterprise value of approximately AUD $1.7B.
With over 36 years’ experience, Tassal is Australia’s largest vertically integrated seafood producer and Blue AgTech business. Its footprint spans from Southern Tasmania to the North of Queensland. Tassal annually harvests 40,000 tonnes of Atlantic salmon in five marine farming zones supported by four land based freshwater hatcheries and four processing facilities. The company also farms 5,500 tonnes of Australian black tiger prawns from two hatcheries, three pond farms and processing facilities.
The company domestically and internationally distributes and processes salmon, prawns and other seafood in fresh, smoked, and frozen categories. Tassal is recognized by Australians as a leading household seafood brand and also distributes products under the company’s brands include Tropic Co – The Aussie Prawn, De Costi Seafood, Superior Gold, and Tasmanian Smokehouse.
First investment in Australia
The Tassal purchase is Cooke’s first investment in Australia and the largest-ever for the family-owned seafood and nutritional products company since it first began in 1985 in New Brunswick.
“We are thrilled to be joining the Tasmanian aquaculture industry and look forward to welcoming Tassal’s 1,700 employees to the Cooke family of companies,” said Glenn Cooke, CEO of Cooke.
“Over the last few months, myself and members of our global management team have had the opportunity to visit Tassal’s operations and have been so impressed by the team’s dedication to what they do and their communities. We’re looking forward to working with Tassal’s employees and customers to ensure that we continue to produce high quality, sustainable seafood for the Australian market and beyond,” he added.
One of the State’s major employers
Like New Brunswick, Tasmania’s isolated coastline, natural environment and cool climate make it the primary location for Australian aquaculture of cooler water species. Species farmed by Tasmanian producers include Atlantic salmon, oysters, mussels, abalone, seahorses and seaweeds.
Marine farming is now one of the State’s major employers with thousands of Tasmanians working in the industry. Australia’s aquaculture industry is actively supported by government and industry partnerships. The National Aquaculture Strategy, in collaboration with state and territory governments, aims to double aquaculture production in Australian waters to an annual value of AUD 2 billion by 2027.
“Producing healthy and nutritious seafood comes with great responsibility. Whether we are farming prawns on land or salmon in the sea, our commitment is to be a responsible business respecting our people, the environment and communities we operate within as we deliver our vision of sustainably feeding tomorrow which aligns perfectly with Cooke’s core purpose,” assured by his part Mark Ryan, CEO of Tassal. “We’re looking forward to becoming part of the Cooke family of companies and sharing the best of what our industry has to offer.”