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Chile seeks to shut Marine Harvest site for 30 days after mass escape

About 680,000 fish escaped from the Punta Redonda farm after severe storms hit the site on 5 July. Photo: Marine Harvest
About 680,000 fish escaped from the Punta Redonda farm after severe storms hit the site on 5 July. Photo: Marine Harvest

Chile’s environment agency has applied to court for an Urgent and Transitory Measure to close down operations at Marine Harvest’s Punta Redonda fish farm for 30 days.

Marine Harvest suffered a blow when its smoked salmon factory in Brittany was destroyed by fire. Image: Le Telegramme
Marine Harvest suffered a blow when its smoked salmon factory in Brittany was destroyed by fire. Image: Le Telegramme

The Third Environmental Court, based in Valdivia, has not ruled on the application yet.

About 680,000 fish, with an average weight of 3.4kg, escaped from the farm near Isla Huar, about 20km south of Puerto Montt, after severe storms battered the area on 5 July. Another 250,000 salmon were transferred to a nearby site after five cages were completely destroyed and four more were badly damaged.

The Urgent and Transitory Measure is based on the information obtained in an inspection of the site carried out by the Los Lagos Regional Team of Chile’s environment agency (SMA), together with a team from Chile’s National Fisheries and Aquaculture Service Sernapesca  on 12 July.

‘Imminent and serious damage’

The court was requested to authorise the issuance of the measure due to the “imminent and serious damage to the environment and the health of the population”. The salmon in two cages were being treated with the antibiotic Florfenicol, which is not suitable for use in humans.

Communications Manager at Marine Harvest, Eivind Nævdal-Bolstad
Communications Manager at Marine Harvest, Eivind Nævdal-Bolstad

For its part, Marine Harvest is now investigating how to mitigate potential damage to its brand after a series of recent unfortunate events, including the Punta Redonda fish escape, the destruction of a factory in Brittany, France, and the detection of ILA has been detected at the company’s locations in Breivika and Breivika S in Nordland.

Communications Manager at Marine Harvest, Eivind Nævdal-Bolstad, told kyst.no: “We have recently had some episodes that the company should have been beyond. When such matters arise, it's crucial for us to communicate well with colleagues, government, the press and others.

“The feedback we have received so far indicates that the cases have been handled in a good way once they have arisen. We are very pleased with how our local colleagues have handled these difficult cases.”

He believes the incidents cannot be put together.

"As for the escape and the fire, it's obviously too early to conclude what was the cause of these events. It is therefore impossible to put this into some context, but it is very reassuring that our procedures in terms of HSE have worked, which has meant that we have not experienced any damage to colleagues in these cases. It is obviously the most important thing for us.

"We will review the situation in the coming period to see if there are improvement points and adjustments we must make, and this work is done will be done with both suppliers and relevant authorities.”

It's obviously too early to conclude what was the cause of these events

Eivind Nævdal-Bolstad
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