Activist Investing
May 1, 2024

Woolworths and Coles can Save the Skate!

Written by
Sarah Chow
Published on
May 1, 2024

Macquarie Harbour is the last remaining habitat for the ancient Maugean skate, a threatened species also known as the ‘Thylacine of the Sea’. Federal conservation advice states that the local salmon farming industry is detrimental to the harbour’s water quality, threatening the survival of the skate. 

The rapid expansion of salmon fish farms lining Macquarie Harbour has drastically lowered oxygen levels and polluted the harbour, suffocating the Maugean skate. Maugean skate numbers nearly halved between 2014 and 2021, with fewer than 1,000 estimated to be left in the wild.[1]

Salmon and ocean trout harvested at Macquarie Harbour end up on the shelves of supermarket giants like Woolworths and Coles. Environmentalist groups have been calling for the supermarket giants to remove Macquarie Harbour products from their shelves.[2] By calling on these supermarket giants to pull their Macquarie Harbour products off the shelf, you can help save the Maugean skate from extinction.

New scientific evidence leads to Federal investigation into Macquarie Harbour

Requests from The Australia Institute, Bob Brown Foundation, and Environmental Defenders Office to the Minister for the Environment and Water triggered an EPBC investigation by the Federal Government to review salmon farms operating in Macquarie Harbour.

Misleading marketing

By continuing to source and stock salmon products from Macquarie Harbour, Woolworths and Coles are accountable for causing the extinction of the Maugean skate. Around 10% of all their Tasmanian salmon is sourced from Macquarie Harbour salmon farms. 

To make things worse, salmon sourced from Macquarie Harbour is being labelled as “responsibly sourced.” Over 80 organisations around the world have called on certification organisations to revoke the sustainability certifications for salmon farmed in Macquarie Harbour, stating that the certification was deceptive. A complaint to the ACCC has been filed by the Environmental Defenders Office for using misleading or deceptive statements to take advantage of the public’s strong preference to buy sustainably farmed salmon.

Millions of dollars have already been pledged in funding for programs to help the Maugean skate survive, through captive breeding programs, oxygenation technology pilots, and ongoing monitoring. However, the emergency oxygen pilot (which is unproven to work) is a mere band-aid without fixing the root cause; and captive breeding programs have so far been unsuccessful, with half of the adult endangered Maugean skates dying within weeks of being in captivity. Conservation advice for the Maugean skate clearly identifies that the most effective way to save the skate is to remove the intensive salmon farms and pull Macquarie Harbour products from the shelves.

The campaign to Save the Skate

A coalition of groups have been working tirelessly to highlight the plight of the Maugean skate and demand urgent action. These groups include Environment Tasmania, Neighbours of Fish Farming, Living Oceans Society, the Bob Brown Foundation, Ekō, The Australia Institute, and more. 

SIX is collaborating with many of these organisations to help bring shareholder activism tools to the campaign. As Anisha Humphreys, campaigner at Ekō says, “It shouldn’t be hard for Woolies and Coles to oppose extinction. Instead, their shareholders could save the skate.”

Civil society does not want to see the extinction of the Maugean skate. The skate is found nowhere else on earth but Macquarie Harbour. Call on Woolworths and Coles to remove Macquarie Harbour products, hold them accountable, and Save the Skate!

Join the campaign here.


[1] Grant MI, Moreno D, Semmens J & Simpfendorfer C (2023) Population viability analysis of the Maugean skate Zearaja maugeana. Report prepared for the Australian Government Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water, pp 40


4-12 Buckland Street, Chippendale, 2008 NSW