About 70% of the salmon eaten around the world is farmed. On such a scale, poor farming practices have the potential to cause negative environmental impacts. Managing interactions with endangered and threatened species, such as seals, birds, and sharks that may be attracted to the aquaculture farms is important so as to minimise impacts on these species.

The Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) provides a framework of standards under which seafood products can be audited and certified as meeting essential environmental requirements for responsible practices. Such standards are important tools, often providing the initial steps to drive improvements in wild-caught fisheries and aquaculture farming practices. However, these fully independent certification schemes also require continual monitoring and evaluation, as new scientific evidence comes to light, calling for robust standards, oversight, and implementation.

Through our work to pursue sustainability in the growing aquaculture sector in Tasmania, we became aware through the science that the rapid increase in production volumes was cumulatively placing pressure on some ecosystems. This raised questions about the efficacy of certification standards and the adequacy of the existing regulatory framework. WWF raised these overall concerns in 2019 to the Tasmanian Upper House Enquiry on Fin Fish Farming. In December 2019, WWF-Australia also commissioned Seafood Advisory, an independent seafood consultancy, to prepare a report to examine the circumstances surrounding the ecological impacts of expanded aquaculture operations in Macquarie Harbour. We were concerned at how cumulative impacts of multiple farming operations in enclosed waterways, such as Macquarie Harbour, could be detected.

The report’s findings reinforce WWF-Australia’s submission and recommendations to the Tasmanian Upper House Enquiry on Fin Fish Farming in 2019. WWF will use this new independent report to continue to advocate for transformation in the aquaculture industry. This will include working towards a stronger environmental regulatory framework, reforms to marine spatial planning, science-based biomass limits and enhanced biosecurity measures and environmental scrutiny, including through the transparency of data collection. We will also advocate for the development of new solutions and consideration of land-based opportunities, which may be appropriate in certain contexts, and work to ensure animal welfare remains paramount in all aspects of the industry. The Tasmanian Government must play the central role in addressing these issues. We also remain committed to working with seafood suppliers to drive changes across their supply chains towards the goal of all seafood being sourced responsibly, and we commend companies that have undertaken such transformation. WWF-Australia believes that all stakeholders must work together to ensure that planning and management of the Tasmanian aquaculture industry operates in harmony with nature and with the many other users of Tasmania’s unique coast and marine environment.