‘Serial offender’ Nova Austral runs afoul of Chile’s environmental watchdog

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Highest fine ever levied for environmental rule-breaking in the Magallanes region.

Chile’s environment regulation agency has fined salmon producer Nova Austral the equivalent of €1.32 million (CLP 1.23 billion) following a string of infractions at the company’s Aracena 19 grow-out centre in Punta Arenas, Chile.

Owned by the equity funds Altor Fund III and Bain Capital, Nova Austral is based in Chile’s Magallanes and Antarctic region where the company employs some 800 people. The fine is the highest ever levied for environmental rule-breaking in the region.

These latest sanctions are the result of a Superintendency of the Environment (SMA) investigation carried out in conjunction with officials from the Fisheries and Aquaculture Service (Sernapesca) and the General Directorate of the Maritime Territory and Merchant Marine (Directemar).

The fine was levied against  the company for five infractions, the most serious of which had to do with Nova Austral’s failure to submit a daily mortality control log corresponding to its 2016-2018 production cycle.

Other breaches include insufficient solid waste management, failure to comply with preventive measures outlined in the farm’s contingency planning document, structural damage at its silage platform, and the concealment of information.

A serial offender
“This is a company that has 50 per cent of its centres undergoing sanctioning procedures – we are in the presence of a serial offender,” SMA Director Cristóbal De La Maza. said on Informe Especial, an investigative television program looking at Nova Austral’s history of breaching Chilean environmental regulations.

“This company has about 25 complaints regarding their centres, so we are talking about more than one complaint per centre,” De La Maza said. “That is clearly one of the worst environmentally performing behaviours.”

“We want to give the signal that all those companies that do not respect the regulations and, in addition, violate them causing effects on the environment, will be sanctioned proportionally, as mandated by environmental regulations.”

More to come
The Informe Especial team joined one of the SMA’s three Magallanes inspectors on an unannounced on-site inspection of Nova Austral’s Aracena 11 centre during which further irregularities were detected that may lead to additional sanctions against Nova Austral.

The company first came under the scrutiny in 2019 following press accusations of the underreporting mortality rates. That scrutiny later resulted in a criminal suit against the company and its former executives. Those criminal charges, and the subsequent court case, resulted in a Chilean court levying the maximum fine possible against the company.

Read more: Nova Austral site to undergo inspection over claims it had adulterated seabed