Huon Aquaculture: putting animal welfare first


As one of Australia’s largest salmon producers, Huon Aquaculture are vocal in their commitment to humane farming, placing fish health and welfare at the centre of their farming operations. And we’re thrilled to share that Huon is now the first brand to offer Australians RSPCA Approved salmon. This is great news for both consumers and millions of fish that will now be farmed in accordance to the RSPCA’s animal welfare standards focused on providing a good life for farmed Atlantic salmon!

“We could not be more proud to be the first salmon farming company to be recognised by RSPCA Australia as a humane food producer,” says Frances Bender, Huon Co-Founder “Our farmers care about our fish. They care about the ocean and they care about its natural inhabitants.”

We spoke to Huon about animal welfare, humane farming and joining the RSPCA Approved Farming Scheme:

Many consumers are showing an interest in where their food comes from, and want to know that it is produced humanely. Have you observed this kind of interest from your customers?
We certainly have. Over the past several years as salmon consumption has increased, so has the desire for consumers to know more about the salmon that they are eating. Salmon provenance isn’t just about where salmon is grown, it is about who grows it and how. By sharing the Huon story we want to help consumers make an informed protein choice.

Better education about where seafood comes from will continue to see more people making the decision to choose RSPCA Approved. We are proud to be leading the way in providing Australian consumers with an option to purchase humanely produced, RSPCA Approved salmon.

Tell us about what your farmers need to know when it comes to fish handling and wellbeing? 
Like many other species, appetite is a really important indicator of health and wellbeing in Atlantic salmon. This is one of the reasons why we have developed a new, high-tech feed system that allows us to accurately assess the feeding responses and feed consumption of our fish in real-time with a series of underwater cameras. This system allows us to remotely feed fish to appetite regardless of their position in the “pecking” order, and to closely monitor their behaviour in a non-invasive and low-stress manner.

Our feed team are attentive to any reductions in appetite that could suggest changes in fish health. Our farmers are experts in detecting changes in fish behaviour and in addition to the day-to-day assessments of health and wellbeing from the surface and during routine operations, these underwater cameras allow us to assess fish behaviour in every pen, with minimal stress.

Signs we look for that indicate fish wellbeing and happiness include; how active they are, if they are schooling together, their skin and scale integrity, and good body condition.

Why is it important to Huon to prioritise animal welfare? 
At the end of each day, we want to go home to our families and be proud of the way that we farm. Like all ethical farmers we care for our stock and want to do the best by them. To do this we use the Huon Method – a philosophy that guides everything we do in the hatchery, on the farm and in the smokehouse.

It is also clear that when animals are safe, healthy, well-nourished, handled gently and live in clean spacious conditions they grow better and are a better quality fish. And when it comes time to harvest, we focus on doing it calmly, quickly and humanely. That all translates into a better product for consumers of fresh, healthy salmon.

Finally, what’s something about salmon farming that might surprise people? 
It might surprise people to know that our fish have around seven times more room to move than free-range chickens!

Here in Australia we actually have the lowest stocking density in the world at 1% fish to 99% water. Huon’s average stocking density is even lower than that and sits between 0.5-1% fish and 99.5-99% water.

 

Find out more answers to questions about how the RSPCA Approved Farming Scheme is improving the lives of farmed salmon.

Want more? Fish Welfare: what the science is telling us and Aquaculture put simply

17 comments

  1. ……….“We could not be more proud to be the first salmon farming company to be recognised by RSPCA Australia as a humane food producer,…..
    .Farming an animal in an unnatural environment, with profit being the driving and number one target………. catering to conscious-less choice & selection of nutrient. Resulting in the unnecessary unnatural life style of a living entity…………

  2. Sally-Anne Hains says:

    Not sure about this. All salmon farmers pollute the environment, actually exploit it, to its detriment. Huon have got the jump on Tassal in the “feel good” stakes, but I am very disappointed in the RSPCA for falling for Huon’s propaganda. Millions of salmon (or tonnes if you want to talk producer speak) die each year in Tasmania due to lack of oxygen due to rising temperatures. I have a place on Bruny Island and the salmon farmers regularly shoot seals (hah, say they relocate them). And let us not forget that Tassal are endorsed by the WWF, World Wildlife Fund. . I will not be renewing my membership or donating to the RSPCA again. Exrtremely disappointed.

    • Hi Sally-Anne – we’re sorry to hear that. As participants in the RSPCA Approved Farming Scheme Huon are meeting the RSPCA’s detailed animal welfare standards and undergo a rigorous assessment process.

  3. this is a dramatic improvement on the inhumane practices of TASSAL salmon farming.

    i still don’t agree with this, but i understand the need for food. thankyou for making it easier for the salmon to live out a more reasonable life.

  4. Thanks for this article. It’s great to know someone is taking care of the farmed fish. I really appreciate this and will look out for their products. I would like to know about the feed they use too. At the moment I never eat farmed fish because of the cruelty and also the low quality unhealthy feed which is used. Any info on this would be most helpful.

  5. Sally -Anne Hains says:

    Read Richard Flanagan’s book “Toxic – Tasmania’s Salmon Industry” it ain’t pretty and it certainly ain’t humane. Tassel, Huan, Petuna are all the same in overstocking the pens, feeding antibiotics, shooting seals or using “seal bombs’ the salmon are all l covereed in sea lice and need “bathing” hah! A very violent process that involves a massive noisy diesel powered ship chugging up the Channel and siphoning them up and then spitting them back into their pens. No better than battery chikens or pigs. And they get dyed pink because dumb chefs and infuencers like this. It is an artificial dye. So, wakey wakey, noone is taking care of the farmed fish. And it is crap for your health because they feed them ground up battery chickens, male chicks, soy beans (from cleared Amazon forests) not the fish/crustaceans they weould have been eating naturally. The salmon producers add the articial pink via a “colour chart”. Look it up. Without the fake dye the flesh would be grey. Anyway, without a natural fish diet, Tasmanian sourced Atlantic salmon are fatty and full of Omega 6 which is no good for you at all. We want Omega 3 which come fro wild Atlantic salon who eat a natural diet. Atlantic salmon cannot survive in the wild in Australia because the water is too warm, and getting warmer and it is very wrong for the RSPCA to endorse fish farming.

    • Hi Sally-Anne, thanks for your comment and interest in the welfare of farmed fish.

      We respect your point of view. However with the UN recognising that aquaculture is set to be one of the fastest-growing animal protein production sectors in the world, it’s important that where fish are farmed, it’s in accordance with higher animal welfare standards.

      The RSPCA Approved Farming Scheme is a farm certification scheme focused on animal welfare. This means that we assess farms against our detailed animal welfare standards.

      For good fish welfare the RSPCA Standard for farmed Atlantic salmon include a focus on managing water oxygen levels, temperature and stocking densities to ensure salmon have the space to swim effortlessly and can perform natural schooling behaviours; good management and husbandry to protect salmon from injury and disease; good stockpersonship with a focus on low-stress handling and animal welfare; and humane slaughter.

      A key animal welfare concern with wild-caught fish (as well as farmed fish) is how they are slaughtered. In Australia, farmed Atlantic salmon are individually stunned (made insensible to pain) prior to slaughter. Adherence to standards around the careful handling and effective stunning of fish prior to slaughter is important and, for wild-caught fish, the RSPCA strongly supports further research and development in how to effectively and humanely stun and kill fish when they are caught in the wild.

      Here’s some additional information relating to the issues you’ve raised.

      Salmon feed contains fish meal and oil, vegetable ingredients such as wheat, soya derivatives, corn gluten and vegetable oils, vitamins, minerals, meat and chicken meal, blood meal, and poultry oil. Using land animal by-products in the feed utilises ‘waste’ from other farming, which improves the sustainability of both land-based and sea-based aquaculture farming production.

      The pink colour of salmon comes from a pigment called astaxanthin. Astaxanthin has antioxidant properties and is an important part of a salmon’s dietary requirements. Salmon in the wild would digest astaxanthin when eating plants, microbes, crustaceans and other foods it would naturally eat. Farmed salmon are given a man-made version with the same nutritious benefits.

      Also, in the northern hemisphere, sea lice infestations in salmon farms can present a serious risk to fish health and welfare. In Tasmania (where Australian farmed Atlantic salmon come fromw) sea lice are rarely found.

      You might be interested in the RSPCA Knowledgebase and the information on there about fish welfare: RSPCA Knowledgebase | fish

      • Sally -Anne Hains says:

        What a bunch of sell out hypocites you are. Salmon full of omega 6 from mashed up battery chickens and soy from cleared Amazon rainforest – yuck – and we own properties at Bruny Island and I dive and see all the dead sludge from the salmon farms. And you shoot the seals. I am kind of not donating to the poor old dogs and cats at the RSPCAAnymore. Moved onto Animals Australia. Hope whoever responded to me is being really well paid by Tassal/Huan because i don’t know how else they sleep at night with the horrendous treatment of the fish.

        • Sally -Anne Hains says:

          Hi RSPCA
          I hope you read the article in The Age this weekend – “the battery chicken of the sea”.
          Absolutely disgusting. And i know because we have property on Bruny Island. Mutilated seals found dead due to salmon farm workers shooting them with lead bullets. And some Brazilian feedlot giant rumoured to be buying Huon out. Oh please RSPCA, i do hope you are getting a lot of money from Huon to support your BS support, because i do support your help for the homeless cats and dogs, but definitely not for your idiotic support of salmon battery industrial farming.
          Sally-Anne Hains

  6. Hi Sally-Anne,

    I’m sorry you feel this way about the RSPCA but I’m unsure what your questions are.

    RSPCA Australia aims to improve the lives of as many farm animals as possible, including farmed fish. One way in which we do this is through the RSPCA Approved Farming Scheme. To date the only company the Scheme works with is Huon Aquaculture and since releasing animal welfare standards for farmed Atlantic salmon in 2016, more than 6.3 million fish have benefitted from better conditions on farm.

    Fish are vulnerable to stress, injuries and mortalities as a result of interactions with predators, such as seals. The RSPCA’s standard aims to strike a balance between the need to maintain good fish welfare by protecting farmed Atlantic salmon from predators and safeguarding the welfare of seals and other predators.

    The RSPCA believes that exclusion measures, both above and below the water, must be the primary method of preventing seals and sea birds from attacking salmon. Over recent years, pen net technology has become very sophisticated and more effective in keeping predators out and fish safe.

    At the same time, safeguarding the welfare of seals and other predators is important. The use of seal deterrent devices must meet the requirements set out by the Tasmanian Government but noting the RSPCA Standard prohibits the use of bean bags, scare caps, electronic seal scarers and pingers.

  7. Sally -Anne Hains says:

    So, sold out to a Brazilian protein producer. I am sure they care about Tasmanian jobs (not), nor the Amazon jungle(soy bean clearing here we come)
    Anyway,, read ” Toxic”. It might change your mind.
    I am never eating salmon again. Maybe think for yourself and grow a backbone instead of spouting the political line from the industrial salmon industry. I think global warming will destroy industral salmon farming anyway.

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