Tassal addresses sustainability issues

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 26th October 2016

Tasmanian salmon company, Tassal, has publically addressed questions raised by ABC’s Four Corners regarding its sustainability practices prior to the program actually going to air.

In an Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) release, Tassal said that on the 11 October 2016, Four Corners visited their business and interviewed its Chief Executive Officer, Mark Ryan, about sustainable salmon farming in Tasmania.

The program has not yet aired but Tassal said there were a number of issues it wished to address that were not fully covered in the interview:

  1. Food labelling

Tassal’s labelling complies with the requirements of Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) which does not require the listing of the ingredients of animal and fish feed.

The reporter, Caro Meldrum-Hanna, particularly enquired about astaxanthin which is a minor additive in Tassal’s fish feed formulation and which is approved as safe for both fish and humans at the minor levels contained in the fish feed formulation.

  1. Halal and Kosher Certification

The reporter commented that Tassal’s fish feed formulation contains porcine blood meal and she questioned the appropriateness of this for products that are Halal or Kosher certified.

Tassal said it has always been transparent with all certification bodies about its production process and a further check with those authorities confirmed that the Halal and Kosher certifications remain valid and that Tassal complies with all their requirements.

Tassal states it complies with current global practice which is to withdraw feed at least three days prior to harvesting in order to ensure the gut content is clear.

Furthermore, gutting is done without cutting or breaching the gut.

  1. Tassal’s relationship with WWF-Australia

Caro Meldrum-Hanna wanted to know why Tassal had not disclosed payments to WWF under its partnership, and suggested that such payments could generate a perception that Tassal had “bought” WWF support.

Tassal flatly rejects that suggestion, saying all payments are disclosed on its website in its sustainability report.

Tassal also rejects Caro’s suggestion that its exclusivity clauses prevent other companies from undertaking partnership arrangements with WWF – Tassal’s exclusivity clauses apply only to specific research work undertaken by WWF for Tassal.

  1. Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) certification

Tassal pays an independent auditor for the annual auditing functions necessary for its ASC certification. Tassal says the certification has not been bought.

  1. Dover Bay Mussels

The reporter asked if Tassal had bought the silence of Warwick Hastwell, the former lessee of Dover Bay Mussels when it bought his lease. Although Tassal’s said Hastwell’s claims that Tassal’s operations were harming his operation could not be substantiated, no attempt was made to stop him from appearing before the 2015 Senate Inquiry into industry criticisms of sustainable salmon farming practices in Tasmania. Mr Hastwell did in fact make a submission to the inquiry.

  1. Macquarie Harbour

The reporter questioned the sustainability of salmon farming in Macquarie Harbour. Mr Ryan assured Caro that overall fish health was excellent in Tassal pens in that estuary, that stocking levels are always within the stocking densities set in its licence conditions and that these levels are regularly adjusted according to conditions in the waterway.

Mr Ryan also assured Caro that mass mortality planning is a necessary part of planning in all livestock business and certainly not an isolated response to fears of a record hot summer.

  1. Oakehampton Bay

The 2002 study which suggested that Oakhampton Bay was unsuitable for salmon farming was not supported by recent monitoring of conditions in the bay. Contemporary salmon farming practices and management techniques now make this a suitable location.

  1. Selective breeding

Tassal said it does not farm GMO salmon. Its breeding program is based on traditional breeding principles.

  1. Environmental conditions

During the Four Corner’s visit Tassal said the Four Corners crew noted the farm water where they were filming were green. Tassal said water colour and other conditions are due to seasonal factors.