Salmon farm watchdogs alarm at shooting deaths of native birds in Tasmania, undermines “sustainable” certifications


News that Tasmania's largest farmed salmon producer, Tassal, shot and killed 53 native birds trapped in substandard feedlot netting has outraged coastal communities in the state. Tassal, owned by Canada's Cooke Aquaculture, received permission from the state's environmental authority to shoot great cormorants after 641 found their way through the netting at the company's Sheppards lease in the D'Entrecasteaux Channel.

36 Great Cormorants died after becoming entangled in the netting and a further 53 were shot by Tassal staff after receiving permission from the Department of Natural Resources and Environment in November and December last year.

Reported first in The Tasmanian Inquirer following a Right to Information inquiry, the news rapidly went national through Australia's public broadcaster, ABC, and Guardian Australia.

Global certification watchdog, SeaChoice, suggests salmon from the lease could still have been sold labelled as "responsible" and "sustainable" with GlobalGAP accreditation. (See statement below)

Gerard Castles, president of the Killora Community Association on Bruny Island, overlooking the waterway, said "It seems like Orwellian doublespeak that Tassal claims they kill cormorants out of concern for animal welfare."
President of Neighbours of Fish Farming, Peter George, said "The consistency of the industry's failure to protect wildlife from its operations is deeply concerning. From injuring and killing protected fur seals to the threat of extinction to the unique 60-million-year-old Maugean skate, the industry has much to answer for."
"Salmon from these farms were more than likely sold under the guise of 'responsible' and 'sustainable' labelling claims to unsuspecting seafood shoppers in major supermarkets and restaurants. Behind these claims are industry-dominated certification schemes with weak environmental standards and loopholes that endorse business as usual practices – including the killing of native wildlife," said Kelly Roebuck, Living Oceans Society representative from the certification watchdog, SeaChoice.

Tassal's entire salmon operations are GlobalGAP certified, including Sheppards lease. GlobalGAP is exclusively governed by global retailers and their suppliers, including major salmon farming companies. Tassal has a limited number of ASC certified grow-out farms, however, the Sheppards lease site is operating as an intermediary farm which the ASC excludes from audits. But this doesn't mean the Sheppards' fish were not sold as ASC. 

It is highly probable that fish from Sheppards were transferred on to an ASC grow-out, with no penalization for the cormorant deaths, and sold as 'responsibly farmed'. All major supermarkets – Woolworths, Coles, and ALDI, accept GlobalGAP and ASC certifications under their so-called responsibly seafood policies.

  • More information: Peter George: +61 426 150 369