Farmed salmon certifications confirm complicity while supermarkets  profit from extinction


Eco-certifications BAP and GLOBAL.G.A.P. have dismissed formal complaints by conservation groups asking them to stop endorsing Macquarie Harbour salmon farms that are having a "catastrophic" impact on the endangered Maugean Skate.

  • Coles, Woolworths and Aldi use these certifications as a shield to deflect criticism and to market Macquarie Harbour salmon to shoppers as 'responsible' and 'sustainable'.
  • Right now is harvest season for Macquarie Harbour salmon, however, shoppers are unable to tell which salmon in store is from the Harbour. This means supermarkets are profiting from the greenwashing of extinction while shoppers are in the dark.
  • The dismissals add further weight to the ACCC complaint submitted by environmental groups in December accusing supermarkets and certifications of greenwashing Macquarie Harbour salmon.
  • Pressure is building from shoppers and shareholders for major supermarkets to save the skate and stop selling Macquarie Harbour salmon.

Lutruwita/Tasmania: In letters to conservation groups, eco-certifications – Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP) and GLOBALG.A.P. – have refused to revoke their endorsements of Macquarie Harbour salmon farms despite these farms threatening the survival of the endangered Maugean skate.

Certification watchdog SeaChoice and allies the Australian Marine Conservation Society, Bob Brown Foundation, Ekō, and Neighbours of Fish Farming submitted formal complaints to the certifications following the publication of the Australian Government's Conservation Advice, in September 2023, that asserts reduced water quality due to salmon farming operations in Macquarie Harbour is a "very high risk" threat that is "almost certain to impact the Maugean skate throughout the entire harbour" with "catastrophic" consequences.

The complaints detail how the certifications are not fit for purpose for Macquarie Harbour's unique ecosystem. BAP and GLOBALG.A.P. have no dissolved oxygen compliance limits and no requirements to measure oxygen levels in the mid or bottom waters of the harbour where water quality impacts are occurring in the skate's habitat. As a consequence, critical impacts are not detected or penalized.

The dismissals argue that farm compliance with legal obligations is sufficient to be certified. This is contrary to the role of eco-certifications which should be to go above and beyond mere legal obligations.

BAP and GLOBALG.A.P.'s unwillingness to revoke Macquarie Harbour certificates adds further weight to a greenwashing complaint lodged with the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission (ACCC) by the Environmental Defenders Office on behalf of groups in December 2023. Both certifications are implicated within the complaint, alongside Aldi, Coles and Woolworths' who label all Tasmanian salmon including that sourced from Macquarie Harbour as 'responsibly sourced'.

To date, more than 80 conservation, animal welfare, and shark groups from around the world called for BAP and GLOBALG.A.P. to revoke their certificates from Macquarie Harbour farms. Around 57,000 shoppers have petitioned Aldi, Coles, and Woolworths to stop selling salmon from the harbour. Last month, a first of its kind shareholder activism campaign to save the skate was launched targeting Coles and Woolworths.

Jessica Coughlan, campaigner at Neighbours of Fish Farming, said:

"The RSPCA and the Aquaculture Stewardship Council stopped endorsing Macquarie Harbour fish farms due to impacts a long time ago. The fact that Global G.A.P and BAP continue to endorse Macquarie Harbour farms contributing to extinction is greenwashing at best, and complicit in the loss of a species at worst. Their dismissal of the scientific evidence underscores the need for the ACCC to conduct an immediate investigation into the greenwashing of Macquarie Harbour salmon by certifications and supermarkets."

Dr. Kilian Stehfest, SeaChoice representative from David Suzuki Foundation, said:

"BAP and GLOBALG.A.P. are turning a blind eye to an extinction emergency. No compliance limits for oxygen levels are required by certified farms. Instead, they defer to local Licence Conditions that have been found to be inadequate by two independent reviews. As a result, critical environmental impacts– namely low oxygen levels in the skate's habitat – go undetected and unpenalized by these certifications. Credible certifications are meant to reduce the environmental impact of aquaculture, not ignore impacts."

Kelly Roebuck, SeaChoice representative from Living Oceans Society, said:

"The dismissal of the complaint by BAP and GLOBALG.A.P. confirms there is no salmon they will refuse to certify – even those driving an ancient relic to extinction. Supermarkets should immediately stop hiding behind these misleading certifications under their so-called seafood sustainability commitments and exercise due diligence by ceasing procurement of Macquarie Harbour salmon."

Adrian Meder, Sustainable Seafood Program Manager at the Australian Marine Conservation Society, said:

"The Australian Marine Conservation Society has produced the GoodFish Sustainable Seafood Guide for Australians for 20 years. Any seafood production – like Macquarie Harbour fish farming – that poses an extinction threat to an endangered species is rightfully on the GoodFish Guide's 'say no' red list. Australian seafood consumers value what sustainability means, and they deserve certifications they can trust to choose seafood without risking a side serve of extinction. To gain that trust, and to serve as meaningful labels to consumers looking for real sustainability, these certifications must show they stand for more than merely rubber stamping a minimum environmental performance required of farms by law."

Alistair Allan, Marine Campaigner at the Bob Brown Foundation, said:

"These certifications are established by industry, for industry. They exist in a feeble attempt to maintain social license for the hugely damaging factory farming of salmon. Salmon companies hire and pay for auditors to certify them. No audit reports of certified farms are published. And as we found out, complaint investigations involve the certifications and/or auditors investigating themselves. It's a classic case of the fox guarding the hen house.

Nish Humphreys, Senior Campaigner at EKŌ, said:

"These certifications are failing to do their job and as a result Australia's living dinosaur, the skate, could go extinct. The big supermarkets selling salmon from Macquarie Harbour are misleading shoppers by slapping responsibly sourced labels on and making a profit. But now, more than 56,000 shoppers are calling on the supermarkets to save the skate and are ready to take further action."
  • For immediate release: 14 March 2024

Background for editors:

Media contacts:

  • Kelly Roebuck | 0432 660 064 |
  • Adrian Meder | 0414 814 981 |
  • Alistair Allan | 0432 352 329 |
  • Nish Humphreys | 0423 505 321 |
  • Jessica Coughlan | 0431 684 741 |