Online newspaper El Mostrador (The Counter) alleged the Magellanes salmon producer had manipulated mortality figures to avoid fines by Sernapesca, Chile’s fisheries and aquaculture service.
Sernapesca and Control Union Peru, which carries out farm audits for the ASC, are both investigating the allegations, which Nova Austral denies.
ASC communications director, Contessa Kellogg-Winters, told Fish Farming Expert’s Chilean sister site, Salmonexpert, that the rapid adoption of the ASC’s program in Chile “is an indication of the importance that salmon farmers in that country place on transparency and the continuous improvements that come with the ASC certification”.
However, due to the complexity of sustainability certification in general and the seafood industry in particular, it was important that any certification scheme adopted diligence measures to ensure that the program is executed properly.
“Part of the reason for establishing our Program Assurance Team was to ensure that the farms in the program meet the ASC standards during the validity of their certificate,” said Kellogg-Winters.
Participating in investigation
“ASC does not tolerate fraud and we are actively participating in the investigation of Nova Austral. We are currently awaiting the result of the investigation by Control Union Peru, which began on June 27, as well as the conclusions of the one carried out by Sernapesca.
“When we have the results we will take all the appropriate measures, including the suspension of the licence agreement of the salmon grower logo, if the accusations are proven. In that case, we will also conduct a risk analysis to determine if it is appropriate to initiate a review of the Chilean farms beyond the mentioned company.”
Meanwhile, Nova Austral has told the Oslo Stock Exchange that its board of directors decided to begin an internal investigation to evaluate the merits of the complaint against the company, which “is an important step to evaluate if there was any deviation from the values and standards of the company and take the appropriate corrective measures, as necessary”.
‘Complies with regulations’
The company added: “For this reason, a central group of advisors, international and Chilean, met, who are working together with the administration to support the investigation.”
Sernapesca has suspended Nova Austral’s “antibiotic-free” certification until it has concluded its investigation.
Nova Austral, which is owned by Norway’s Altor Fund III and US-based Bain Capital, insisted that “the company complies with strict regulations to comply with the promise of antibiotic-free salmon for its clients, and is fully committed to cooperating with regulators to resolve this issue as soon as possible”.