Skip to main content

Australis accused of 76% overproduction at site in protected area

Australis Seafoods' Estero Retrocesco site, where it allegedly exceeded production limits by 76%. Photo: SMA.
Australis Seafoods' Estero Retrocesco site, where it allegedly exceeded production limits by 76%. Photo: SMA.

Chile’s environment watchdog has initiated a sanctioning process against salmon farmer Australis Seafoods for allegedly exceeding its production limit by 76% at a farm site in an environmentally protected area. It is the sixth case the watchdog has raised against Australis and the fourth related to overproduction.

The 20-hectare Estero Retroceso site in the Kawésqar National Reserve in the Magallanes region has permission for 24 raft cages and a maximum production of 4,320 tonnes of salmon per farming cycle.

But according to the Superintendency of the Environment (Superintendencia del Medio Ambiente, or SMA), Australis Seafoods exceeded that figure by more than 3,000 tonnes in the cycle between January 22, 2018, and December 22, 2019.

7,620 tonnes

The SMA is acting upon a complaint from state aquaculture supervisory agency Sernapesca, which calculated the excess production.

“In its report, the agency analyses the information contained in different sources, including reports from the companies themselves, as well as from the processing plants where the raw material [salmon] is received,” said Andy Morrison, regional head of the SMA in Magallanes.

Sernapesca reported that in the 2018-2019 production cycle, the raw material processed from the Estero Retroceso site was 7,459 tonnes, with an accumulated mortality of 80,374 fish (160.5 tonnes of biomass), making the total production 7,620 tonnes, which exceeds the maximum authorised production of 4,320 tonnes by 3,301 tonnes (figures rounded up).

Emanuel Ibarra:
Emanuel Ibarra: "Overproduction of salmon is one of the infractions that most concerns us, due to the environmental effects they cause." Photo: SMA.

Large amounts

The Superintendent of the Environment, Emanuel Ibarra, said: “The overproduction of salmon is one of the infractions that most concerns us, due to the environmental effects they cause. In the cases we have raised, there are no marginal increases, but large amounts of overproduction. In that sense, it is a breach that should never occur in these dimensions, because companies should have total control of their production cycle.”

A second charge against Australis is that the effluent from the Estero Retroceso site’s wastewater treatment plant exceeded the maximum parameters of total suspended solids, including faecal coliforms. The SMA classes this as a minor charge, whereas the overproduction charge is classed as “serious”.

Five other cases

The SMA is pursuing another five sanctioning processes against Australis: one for a smolt plant in the Biobío Region, two for the Salas 5 and Costa marine sites in the Aysén region and two for the Cordova 3 and Morgan sites in Magallanes.

The cases against Cordova 3 and Morgan, both located within the Kawésqar National Reserve, are related to overproduction, as is the case against the Costa farm in Aysén.

Australis Seafoods is owned by Chinese foodservice giant Joyvio, a subsidiary of Legend Holdings, which has interests in finance, real estate, and information technology, and is the controlling shareholder of computer equipment maker Lenovo Group.

According to figures in salmon farmer Mowi’s 2021 industry handbook, Australis harvested 59,500 gutted weight tonnes of Atlantic salmon in 2020, making it Chile’s sixth-largest salmon producer, just 300 gwt behind fifth-placed Blumar and less than 2,000 gwt behind fourth-placed Cermaq Chile.