Supermarkets could be hit with significant fines for misleading customers with false sustainability claims, if a complaint to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is proven true.
The complaint submitted by the Environmental Defenders Office on behalf of four environmental groups alleged that Coles, Woolworths and Aldi were misleading the public with ‘responsibly sourced’ claims on some Tasmanian salmon products.
The complaint said that about 10% of Tasmanian salmon was farmed from Macquarie Harbour, the only remaining habitat of the endangered Maugean skate. It said that if fishing were allowed to continue, the skate was risking extinction.
More than 56,000 people have signed a petition urging supermarkets to stop fishing in the harbour.
Neighbours of Fish Farming campaigner Jessica Coughlan, one of the complainants, said that supermarkets should not be allowing fish from the area onto their shelves.
“There is nothing “responsible” about intensively farming fin fish in Macquarie Harbour, given the history of environmental damage, due largely to a massive expansion of industry which will take years to repair,” Coughlan said in a statement.
“Shoppers deserve to know the real impacts of the food they are buying, or they too become complicit in the extinction of a species that has survived longer than many animals on this earth today.
“Supermarkets are actively deceiving shoppers via their sustainable seafood policies by selling this product.”
The group said the skate was at risk of becoming the first shark or ray in modern times to go extinct as a direct result of human activity. They said it was likely to be uplisted to ‘critically endangered’ by the Federal Government in 2024.
In response, both Coles and Woolworths told PEDESTRIAN.TV that they were aware of concerns regarding skate populations, with a Woolworths spokesperson saying that they had “rigorous” protocols in place to verify their claims.
“This includes ensuring all products meet our Seafood Sourcing Policy, reviewing our suppliers’ third-party certification and their fishing and farming methods,” they said.
“Our Seafood Sourcing Policy requires all Woolworths branded seafood to be third-party certified or independently verified as ecologically responsible. In addition to our Policy, all our suppliers must also meet all relevant legislative and regulatory requirements.”
The spokesperson said they were taking the matter seriously and would continue to closely monitor the situation.
In a statement provided to PEDESTRIAN.TV, a Coles spokesperson also said they were aware of the concerns and were working with relevant stakeholders to better understand skate populations in the area.
“In order to meet the requirements of the Coles Responsibly Sourced Seafood Program, all Own Brand farmed salmon must be certified by independent third-party standards,” they said.
“We continue to review the Coles Responsibly Sourced Seafood Program to reduce potential environmental impacts linked to seafood production.”
An Aldi spokesperson said its responsibly sourced salmon claims were certified by third-party bodies including Best Aquaculture Practices and Global G.A.P.
“We will continue to seek guidance from accredited certification bodies to ensure best practice in our sourcing to meet the expectations of our stakeholders, including our customers,” a spokesperson said in a statement provided to PEDESTRIAN.TV.
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