In Chile, the Superintendency of the Environment (SMA) has initiated three sanctioning procedures related to the overproduction of salmonid grow-out sites (CES in its Spanish acronym) that affect two well-known salmon farming companies. Those investigated are two Nova Austral farming sites, both located within the Alberto de Agostini National Park in Magallanes; and a third Multi X site, located within the ‘Las Guaitecas’ National Reserve. In both cases, Chile’s National Fisheries and Aquaculture Service (Sernapesca), previously submitted reports detailing excess production. As a result, both companies face a serious charge that could result in penalties ranging from fines of millions to the revocation of their Environmental Qualification Resolution or even the closure of the facilities.
Protected natural areas
In the case of Nova Austral, two of the salmon company’s sites are facing charges. According to the SMA, in the first one, CES Aracena 1, the maximum authorized production was exceeded by 11%, while in the second, CES Aracena 13, it was exceeded by 24.4%. In both cases, it did so for the 2019-2021 production cycle. In addition, the Chilean environmental authority highlights that the two farms are located in the Staples Estuary, Capitan Aracena Island, within the Alberto de Agostini National Park. This park, says the SMA, is a sector with a sub-Antarctic Patagonian ecosystem, which seeks to ensure its biodiversity and evolutionary processes.
For its part, Multi X is being investigated for its May site, located in the Chaffers Channel, within the area corresponding to the ‘Las Guaitecas’ National Reserve in the Aysén Region, also a protected wildlife area of Chile. According to the SMA, from the information sent to them by Sernapesca, it was possible to verify that this CES had an exceedance of 13.2% over what was authorized in its environmental permit in the 2018-2020 production cycle.
As said, as a result of the investigation, each salmon farm may be subject to revocation of its Environmental Qualification Resolution, closure, or a fine of up to CLP 3.700 million (€4.2 million / $ 4.4 million) for each of the sites. It could be up to double for Nova Austral since in its case there are two affected farms.
Companies willing to cooperate
The Superintendency of the Environment pointed out that each company has 10 working days (from February 27, 2023) to submit a Compliance Program (CP) and 15 working days to present its rebuttals after notification of the sanction. Both companies have issued statements announcing that they will do so.
“Nova Austral will make available to the authority all the required information within the corresponding deadlines, and is available to adopt the necessary measures to ensure a high standard of compliance in its operation”, said the Magallanes company.
Meanwhile, Francisco Lobos, Manager of People, Sustainability and Corporate Affairs, said that “Multi X will provide all the information required by the authority within the corresponding deadlines and will adopt the measures that the authority considers necessary, as has been its commitment to regulatory compliance throughout its history and the sustainable development of the activity”.
Maximum production limits associated with the environmental load
As explained by the Chilean Superintendent of the Environment, Marie Claude Plumer, in Chile, overproduction is one of the key issues in the control of the salmon farming sector, precisely because of its close relationship with the environmental balance. “The environmental permits granted to salmon farming projects establish maximum production limits associated with the environmental load that the sector can receive”, she said.
“When these limits are exceeded, there is a potential risk of generating anaerobic conditions, i.e. lack of oxygen in the water column, as well as difficulties in absorbing, dispersing or consuming waste generated in the fattening process by food not consumed by the salmon. This is especially important in protected areas, where ecosystem balances must be maintained”, stated Marie Claude Plumer.
The Chilean industry is well aware of its need to maintain high standards of sustainability in salmon production, especially in protected natural areas, a particularly sensitive habitat not only environmentally but also in the eyes of public opinion. And that is why, although some experts consider that the new standard can still be improved, the emphasis on sustainability was one of the key points made by the industry in welcoming the new escapes law approved last January, which aims to protect the marine ecosystem.