Environmentalists claim Tasmanian salmon industry greenwashing its products

Salmon swimming in a Huon Aquaculture net pen.

Neighbors of Fish Farming (NOFF), an Australian organization working to end salmon farming in Tasmanian waters, has submitted claims to a Federal Senate inquiry into greenwashing that the Atlantic salmon industry in the country is making false sustainability claims.

The Australian Senate started an inquiry into greenwashing on 29 March, 2023, specifically aimed at looking into claims made by companies and the impacts of those claims on consumers. As part of that inquiry, NOFF submitted information it claims shows the Atlantic salmon industry should be investigated.

“Salmon industry advertising, supermarket packaging, websites and social media promote an image that is false,” Jessica Coughlan, a member of the NOFF committee, said in a release. “The rules on advertising claims of ‘sustainability' are insufficient, and the result is that shoppers are being fooled.”

The NOFF claims that seafood certifications like Best Aquaculture Practices and GlobalG.A.P. are greenwashing the industry. The claims follow up on similar accusations against the two organizations following a study by the University of Tasmania which found aquaculture could be a factor in the dwindling population of the rare Maugean skate.

The skate is endemic to Macquarie Harbour, and has existed in a similar state for millions of years. However, scientists at the university found the population has dwindled in the past decade.

For that reason, NOFF said, the organization submitted its claims that the salmon industry is greenwashing its products if it claims it is sustainable.

“What’s happening in Macquarie Harbour, where the industry’s operations have pushed the Maugean skate to the brink of extinction, is clear evidence that it’s anything but sustainable,” Coughlan said.

The NOFF also placed some blame on popular supermarket chains like Woolworths, Coles, Aldi, and IGA that sell farmed Atlantic salmon.

The NOFF’s submission joins other submissions by environmental groups. The Australian Marine Conservation Society also submitted information to the greenwashing inquiry, stating that Tasmanian Atlantic salmon farming endangers the island’s reputation as a pristine environment.

The World Wildlife Fund also submitted criticisms of the salmon industry to the inquiry.

“WWF-Australia harbors growing concerns that certification is increasingly being viewed as a tool to secure market access/market share or a ‘social license’, as opposed to recognition for environmental performance,” the WWF said.

Tasmania's government has been working on a salmon industry plan to help manage the growth of the local aquaculture sector. But environmental groups and aquaculture opponents have been vocally critical of the government's plans for Tasmania, and of the actions of the major salmon-farming companies operating there. 

Photo courtesy of Huon Aquaculture


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