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BAP approval helps Nova Austral regain respectability

The Aracena 19 salmon farm. Photo: Nova Austral.
The Aracena 19 salmon farm. Photo: Nova Austral.

Disgraced Chilean salmon farmer Nova Austral has taken a significant step towards regaining credibility by earning Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP) approval for one of its farms.

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The company was recently fined the equivalent of £150,000 for concealing the extent of mortality among its fish last year.

The scandal dented the reputation of Nova Austral, which markets is fish as a premium product grown in pure Antarctic waters without the need for antibiotics. It also led to the suspension of the company’s Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) certification.

Nicolás Larco: Correcting the problems of the past.
Nicolás Larco: Correcting the problems of the past.

Heightened inspection regime

Chief executive Nicolás Larco said that he is working to correct the problems of the past, and that the salmon farmer “is recognised for its commitment to the environment”. Larco was appointed as chief financial officer in a management shake-up prompted by the scandal and became CEO in April this year.

The Global Aquaculture Alliance (GAA), which administers the BAP programme, said the new management team at Nova Austral had worked tirelessly since late last year to ensure that its Aracena 19 site in the Magallanes region was prepared for its audit, conducted by SAI Global in early June. 

BAP said Aracena 19 was subjected to a heightened degree of inspection, including a series of investigative audits over the first half of 2020, the outcome of which provided evidence and assurance that the company has fully addressed concerns related to the BAP standards and certification. 

Nova Austral has committed all of its other salmon farm sites as well as its new hatchery to apply for BAP certification, and those sites will also be subjected to a heightened degree of inspection.

We carried out an internal investigation and a deep and exhaustive audit, which allowed us to initiate these certification processes with one of the most recognised entities in the world of sustainability.

Nova Austral CEO Nicolás Larco

Larco told Fish Farming Expert’s Chilean sister site, Salmonexpert.cl, that for the past year, Nova Austral had deployed a series of important measures to remedy the events that occurred in 2019, including the strengthening of ethical and compliance standards.

“Among them, we carried out an internal investigation and a deep and exhaustive audit, which allowed us to initiate these certification processes with one of the most recognised entities in the world of sustainability,” said Larco. 

“This BAP certification, the first we have obtained as a company, is further proof that things are being done well in this new Nova Austral and that there is a strong commitment to good practices and respect for standards. 

“Our team, led by the new administration, is focused on working so that the company is increasingly recognised for its commitment to the environment and the environment in which it operates.”

ASC audit confirmed

Larco said Nova Austral had been accepted as a company to restart the certification process with ASC. 

“The audit is confirmed and ongoing, so we are working on it as planned. We are confident and willing for Nova Austral to meet all the standards required by this certification,” stressed the CEO.

Larco pointed to several positive actions from the company, which is owned by private equity companies Altor Fund III, of Norway, and US-based Bain Capital.

Whistleblowing channel

“In addition to renewing the administration, we strengthened the operation by incorporating managers with extensive experience,” said the executive.

“We finished our RAS hatchery, which reuses up to 97% of the water and has an innovative sludge drying system that allows it to be used as fertiliser or biofuel, achieving a production process with little environmental impact.

“We have actively collaborated with the authorities in the ongoing investigations, and we established many improvements in our internal controls, such as the launch of our new whistleblowing channel, which is managed by an independent entity (Fundación Generación Empresarial).”

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