Fact-checking WWF's Support of Tassal - Environment Tasmania

Fact-checking WWF's Support of Tassal

Thanks to the thousands of you who petitioned WWF and signed on to our open letter, the pressure is really on to force WWF to end their support of Tassal and its destructive salmon farming practices.

You might have received an email from WWF in response. I don’t know about you but for us it raised more questions than answers. To debunk their claims we’ve put together the following.

Sustainability is a journey

WWF tell us they believe sustainability is a journey that we’re all on. Pushing the metaphor, they state “... if we trip or fall, we need to get up and keep going”. We agree that it is good for environment groups to help companies improve, but if we are going to endorse a corporate product, there needs to be a clear line about what will be endorsed and what won’t. Will WWF attach their panda logo to products regardless of the amount of damage caused, just because the company professes good intentions?

If all companies that say they are ‘on a journey’ get endorsement, it means that some pretty harmful environmental practices will end up being endorsed. At the end of the day, WWF seems to be saying that they have no problems endorsing Tassal’s operations in Macquarie Harbour that have caused a dead zone, where no marine life can exist. They are happy to overlook the fact that this dead zone is spreading into the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage area and is putting at risk the endangered Maugean Skate - a prehistoric species that is found only in Tasmania.

Yes, sustainability is a journey, but there needs to be a line, and signing-off on damage to a World Heritage Area and extinction of an endangered species is a line no environment group should cross.

Fishy feed

WWF talks about the modest decrease of fish meal in Tassal’s feed but they fail to mention the fact that, with Tassal production dramatically ramping up, it follows that the total tonnage of wild fish in feed is going up. This is important because Tassal takes from a fishery that has crashed twice already - the Peruvian Anchoveta Fishery. Ninety-eight percent of the anchoveta catch from this fishery is exported as animal feed – in a country where 11 million people a day go hungry. What happens in this fishery ripples through the food web – impacting not just poor communities but penguins, seals and whales too.

Scientists are reporting fears for the long-term viability of this fishery, which the United Nations calls “the most heavily exploited fish in world history.” No salmon company that is increasing its use of marine ingredients from this fishery should be labelled ‘sustainable.’

Open and transparent

It is encouraging that WWF is committed to being open and transparent about how it works and makes decisions on corporate partnerships. With this in mind Environment Tasmania is asking for WWF to answers the following questions.

  • Is WWF confident that Tassal’s ongoing operations in Macquarie Harbour do not pose a threat to the endangered Maugean Skate and if so, what scientific evidence is WWF drawing on?

  • How much money has WWF received from Tassal to date?

  • Is WWF’s partnership with Tassal is exclusive within the Australian salmon industry?

  • Has the percentage of fish oil in Tassal’s feed increased since 2012?

  • Has the total volume of marine ingredients in Tassal’s feed increased since 2012?

  • On what conditions can WWF end a corporate partnership?

  • Is there a clause within your contract with Tassal that allows WWF to exit the arrangement?

WWF’s endorsement has to end

We know that WWF takes up to $500,000 a year in direct payments from Tassal. We’re worried this creates a conflict of interest that is influencing its decision to support Tassal’s outdated and destructive inshore farming methods, which the company is about to expand onto Tasmania’s stunning east coast.

WWF’s panda does not belong on Tassal packaging and the financial relationship makes it look like Tassal are simply buying kudos from a far-away international charity who could not possibly know what is happening on the ground.

Our campaign for Tasmania’s precious marine life is just getting started but we can’t do it without your help. Please support our work now with a donation - click here.

Further Reading

Tasmanian scientists raise concerns that intensive salmon farming in Macquarie Harbour will lead to extinction of an endangered species, the Maugean Skate, which they refer to as the ‘thylacine of the sea’.

Australian Ethical Investments decision to sell its holdings in Tassal because of concerns about their sustainability.

The latest scientific report on the environmental crisis in Macquarie Harbour.  

Information provided by WWF to Four Corners with details of the amount of money WWF receives for endorsing Tassal

Environment Tasmania’s report on the problems with regulation of the salmon farming industry in Tasmania and the solutions that will protect the environment and secure jobs.