Chile regulator charges Marine Harvest with environmental breaches

SANTIAGO (Reuters) – Chile’s environmental regulator on Wednesday charged the local unit of Norway’s Marine Harvest with breaching the terms of its permits following the escape of hundreds of thousands of salmon from a facility in southern Chile in July.

Chile’s Environmental Superintendent (SMA) said salmon farmer Marine Harvest had failed to properly maintain its infrastructure along the country’s coastline, allowing the fish to escape out to sea. Some of the environmental damage was irreparable, the regulator said.

“[Marine Harvest] risks the revocation of its environmental approvals, closure, or a fine,” the SMA said in a statement.

A spokesman for Marine Harvest said the company was reviewing the charges and planned to respond with “relevant information.”

“At this stage, it is too early to speculate on future consequences of the charges,” Marine Harvest spokesman Ola Helge Hjetland said in an email to Reuters.

The company now has up to 15 days to contest the charges, or to file a plan to bring its operations back into compliance, the SMA said.

Nearly 700,000 fish swam into the wild last month after a storm damaged enclosures near the southern city of Calbuco.

Some had been injected with a course of antibiotics that was incomplete at the time, making them unfit for human consumption and raising environmental concerns.

Only around 38,000 of the fish, or 5.5 percent, were recaptured, the SMA said.

Earlier on Wednesday, the Norwegian company, which has production in Chile, Scotland, Ireland, the Faroe Islands, Iceland and Canada as well as Norway, reported a record quarterly profit.

Chile is the world’s second-largest producer of salmon, after Norway.

Reporting by Dave Sherwood, additional writing by Cassandra Garrison; editing by Rosalba O’Brien and Tom Brown

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