Brazilian meat-processing giant JBS has praised the environmental record of Huon Aquaculture during its takeover bid, following concerns raised by billionaire Andrew 'Twiggy' Forrest who increased his stake in the Tasmanian salmon producer.
Via his private investment company Tattarang, Dr Forrest increased his shareholder voting power in Huon from 7.3 per cent to 18.5 per cent, and said the company had to grasp an opportunity to be a leader in animal welfare and environmental sustainability.
He was concerned that JBS's takeover documentation did not mention environmental and animal husbandry matters.
In response, JBS released a statement late on Friday stating it had written to Tattarang to outline the company's "global commitment to sustainability and animal welfare".
"This commitment extends to Huon, where JBS intends to build on the legacy of the Bender family, upholding the highest standards for superior quality, fish health and sustainable farming practices - from water management to animal welfare, net zero emissions and stock densities," the statement reads.
JBS has agreed to make a takeover bid to all Huon shareholders at $3.85 per share but with a 50.1 per cent minimum acceptance requirement, a reduction from the 75 per cent level from its August 6 offer.
It was a counter to Dr Forrest's increased stake, putting pressure on the mining magnate to launch a full takeover bid of his own.
Huon Aquaculture also released a statement to the Australian Stock Exchange on Friday in which it addressed Dr Forrest's public remarks.
The company defended its environmental record.
"Huon has been, over 35 years of operation, and continues to be, uncompromising in its commitment to the highest standard of animal husbandry, biosecurity, environmental management, and sustainable farming practices and has been at the forefront of continuous improvement in related to environmental sustainability," the statement reads.
"JBS has also confirmed to Huon its commitment to ensuring the wellbeing of animals under its care and to upholding and building on Huon's legacy of high standards for superior quality, fish health, welfare and sustainable farming practices under its ownership."
JBS has told Huon it will provide more details of its animal welfare and sustainability practices in the scheme booklet for shareholders.
The Tasmanian Alliance for Marine Protection has long been a critic of the practices of Tasmania's salmon industry, including Huon Aquaculture, and was concerned at JBS's defence of the company's record.
Over a three-year period, Huon used 16,008 crackers and 315 rounds of bean bags to deter seals from its salmon farms.
Founder of the Derwent Estuary Program, Christine Coughanowr, raised concerns that there were unanswered questions about how much nitrogen pollution from fish farms in Storm Bay was entering the Derwent, and feared they were causing irreparable damage.
TAMP co-chair Peter George said they had serious concerns about JBS and Huon.
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"The industry here has a reputation which is similar to the reputation of salmon production in coastal waters all around the world, which is one of destruction of marine life and carelessness for the environment," he said.
"There has been nutrients poured into public waters creating algal blooms and threatening the clarity and pristine nature of what is an island in the great Southern Ocean."
TAMP had lobbied Dr Forrest to consider recirculated, on-shore aquaculture but he was yet to respond.
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