WWF works across the seafood supply chain to protect marine ecosystems, the species that live within them and the communities that depend on seafood for their livelihoods and food security.
We do this in many ways, from tracing the origin of wild-caught fish to combating illegal fishing, to pushing for the elimination of destructive fishing gear to minimise bycatch, to highlighting markets for seafood from responsibly managed sources.
The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) provide 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. WWF is a stakeholder in various certification processes, including the MSC and ASC. We participate in stakeholder consultations in an effort to improve standards, always seeking decisions that are made on the best available science alongside full transparency. We may oppose the certification of fisheries or farms that we assess as not having achieved the requirements of environmental sustainability. Recently, WWF successfully objected to the proposed MSC certification of Orange Roughy fisheries off the coast of Tasmania, on the grounds that such requirements were not being met.
We will continue to challenge and work to ensure the continual improvement of such schemes as new scientific evidence comes to light, calling for robust standards, oversight, and implementation.
Aquaculture is a rapidly expanding industry which accounts for almost half of the global seafood supply and is the single largest seafood sector in Australia.
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.
We wanted to know more about how and why these impacts occurred, and if changes in certification schemes could have helped to prevent the adverse ecological outcomes. We also wanted to ensure that any lessons could inform decision-making so that these negative environmental impacts are not repeated elsewhere, and to inform the discussion on restoring the health of Macquarie Harbour.
Seafood Advisory interviewed a wide range of stakeholders about the issues around aquaculture in Macquarie Harbour, and this input helped to frame the findings and recommendations in its final report.
The report, which we have included on this page, confirms there are ways that aquaculture certification can and should be reformed, particularly to account for cumulative impacts of multiple farms. It also found some impacts of aquaculture in Macquarie Harbour are beyond the scope of certification and need to be addressed through government regulatory reform.
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.
Review of Eco-labelling Standards in Relation to Salmon Farming in Macquarie Harbour