Successful farmers should ensure their influence on the environment is minimised and the environment (whether it is land or sea) is sufficiently resilient to be utilised for future farming. Huon is well-regulated to ensure that these impacts are managed, localised, temporary and well-understood through ongoing monitoring and scientific research.
As an example of the monitoring undertaken at Huon, every month, under every pen, a survey of the sea-bed is undertaken assessing bacteria, faeces, pellets, sediment (seafloor) colour and condition, and animals including fish, crustaceans and worms. This monthly internal monitoring is in addition to the annual benthic surveys (a requirement of the environmental licence) and our participation in the BEMP – Broadscale Environmental Monitoring Program. Read more about our environmental monitoring here.
The BEMP was initiated in 2009 by the State Government to provide knowledge and information on ecosystem function in the D’Entrecasteaux Channel and Huon Estuary and then expanded to include Macquarie Harbour in 2011 and Storm Bay in 2019. The BEMP program is unique globally, with few other salmonid farming countries undertaking a detailed BEMP as is undertaken in Tasmania.
Certifications and Compliance
Huon’s certifications span egg to plate
Huon seeks independent certification of its processes both as a means of validating compliance with global best-practice, and building trust and transparency through the external auditing process.
In 2018, Huon was the first (and remains the only) seafood producer in Australia to meet the RSPCA’s detailed animal welfare standards for farmed Atlantic Salmon after satisfying the rigorous animal welfare requirements. The RSPCA Approved branding offers consumers the assurance that Huon Salmon has been farmed ethically and humanely. The RSPCA Standard does not cover Macquarie Harbour which means that around 98 per cent of Huon Salmon is RSPCA Approved.
The RSPCA standard is not a pay-for-play certification—the farmer bears all of the costs of becoming compliant with the scheme and the only monies that change hands is a proportional fee for using the RSPCA Approved logo. These funds go back into improving and promoting the Approved Farming Scheme.
In 2012, Huon became the first Australian salmon producer to achieve the internationally recognised accreditation, Global G.A.P. This pre-farm gate standard covers the whole production process of the certified product from the hatchery until the point of harvest and packing and recognises ongoing, continuous improvement.
Huon is also a BRC AA-rated seafood processor—the BRC Global Standards specify requirements to be met to enable the production, packaging, storage and distribution of safe food and consumer products. Originally developed in response to the needs of UK members of the British Retail Consortium, these standards are specified by growing numbers of retailers and branded manufacturers in the EU, North America and further afield. Huon’s Parramatta Creek processing facility first achieved BRC AA rating in 2016; at the time, we were the first seafood processing facility in Australia to achieve this rating.
Huon is also HACCP certified. Safe food production is achieved by applying HACCP techniques to ensure that potential hazards during the process are recognised, monitored and controlled and finally,
Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS) also undertake regular inspections and assess Huon’s certification process compliance to approve the sale of Huon products overseas.
As a fully vertically-integrated company, Huon’s compliance obligations span across all aspects of its operations; from managing emission levels from our processing factory smokehouse, to obtaining development approval for permitted building works, to monitoring nutrient outputs from hatcheries and maintaining locations of on-water markers in our marine leases. Our regulatory bodies include State Government, EPA, local planning authorities, Federal Government (export controls) etc.
The Tasmanian legislation and regulations applicable to our operations range from the Crown Lands Act, Dangerous Goods and Substances Act, Environmental Management and Pollution Control Act, Inland Fisheries Act, National Parks and Wildlife Regulation etc.; some 40+ pieces of legislation. In addition, each active marine lease is subject to controls outlined in an Environmental Licence and a Marine Farm Licence (publicly available via ListMap).
An ROV preparing for a monitoring dive
The impact of Huon’s operations on the environment has been the subject of over thirty years of scientific investigation. A variety of reports, surveys and research exists covering a range of potential impacts, from benthic (seabed) changes, near-farm seafloor, and broad scale (far from farm) water quality changes.
Huon complies with a range of environmental monitoring processes–some for the regulator (the EPA), some for compliance reasons (for Government), some for ethical reasons, and some of our monitoring is linked in research collaboration.
Before commencing farming at a new marine site, a baseline survey is conducted to establish and document baseline environmental conditions. This process involves looking at approximately 30 ROV (remotely operated vehicle) dive sites within the lease boundary and 34-40 sites outside the boundary. In addition to visual surveys, sediment and core samples are also taken.
Each operational site is surveyed by ROV (max) every 4 weeks and this data, together with the baseline, allow us to monitor any changes in the marine environment to ensure that our farming operations remain compliant with legislation. We also undertake environmental surveys post fallowing.
On top of our baseline surveys, we also conduct annual underwater video surveys for the EPA and for inclusion in our internal reports (this has been an environmental regulatory requirement since 1997 – the regulator can require marine farmers to conduct underwater video surveys more frequently). During these surveys, we record everything we see on the seafloor and make written observations to accompany the video findings. In our observations, we look at the physical properties of the floor, what species are present, and whether there are any fish feed pellets, or fish faeces visible. We also send GPS files to show where our reports are based down to the metre, and our ROV files.
Conducting annual surveys has allowed us to collate a comprehensive record of the history of Huon’s interactions with the environment in which we operate. This has allowed us to better plan our fallowing process, understand our environment and innovate our practices to continually minimise the impact of Huon’s farming activities to the natural environment.
Research and Development
Huon’s feed trial pens and Control Room
Huon is extremely proud of the advances made in the last 30 years of salmonid farming in Tasmania. Research into all aspects of our operations is a cornerstone of our business, and it is through ongoing investment that we remain at the forefront of our industry.
Huon has invested over $200m on research and development (R&D) since 2012 alone and collaborated with over 17 external research providers – read more here R&D Fact Sheet
Huon also undertakes a significant amount of internal R&D projects, providing results that underpin scientifically based decision-making. Our R&D has resulted in the development and implementation of innovations including our Fortress Pens and our Remote Feed Control Room.
Huon also operates a dedicated thirty-five trial pen unit at our Hideaway Bay lease near Dover (one of a few commercial trial units worldwide) and also operates three dedicated trial units (a total of 51 tanks variously capable of holding 0.2 gram to 15 kg size fish) located across our freshwater hatchery operations.
Huon is a one-third partner in the Experimental Aquaculture Facility (EAF), a world-class research facility which opened in October 2015. The first of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere, the primary purpose of the EAF is to provide specialist research facilities to support the growth and sustainability of the salmonid industry. Tasmania’s salmon farming is by far the largest aquaculture industry in Australia, and accounts for the bulk of seafood production in Tasmania.
The EAF is advancing the understanding of Tasmania’s aquaculture industry (mainly salmon and oysters) by addressing issues of animal physiology, genetics, health, nutrition, welfare and production, environmental management, food safety and climate change impacts.
In addition, Huon has been a strong supporter and funding contributor to the Centre of Excellence for Aquatic Animal Health and Vaccines located in Launceston—the same facility that has successfully developed a vaccine for Pilchard Orthomyxovirus (POMV).
Huon shares the waterway with native species including seals and gulls
Like all farming operations, Huon works hard to keep both our fish as well as the local wildlife safe. We believe the solution to this is good barrier technology and our industry-leading pens and nets protect seals and birds by restricting access to the pens below and above the waterline.