Prosecutor files lawsuit against Mowi Chile over 2018 escape
Chile’s Council for the Defense of the State (CDE) has filed a lawsuit with the third environmental court against Mowi Chile, seeking for the salmon farmer to rectify a large-scale escape of 690,000 fish from its Punta Redonda faming center on Guar Island in the south of the country in July 2018.
The suit comes on the heels of an August 2020 fine of CLP 5.3 billion (USD 6.7 million, EUR 5.7 million) that Chile’s Superintendency of the Environment, SMA, levied against Mowi for the same incident. The environmental watchdog said that the event had caused “irreparable environmental damage,” as the farmer had failed to maintain “the appropriate security conditions and cultivation elements of optimal quality and resistance.”
SMA cited outdated water current measurements at the Los Lagos region, Calbuco district center built in 2017, failure to implement recommended moorings, and evidence of wear and tear of the nets and mooring lines to which the company did not respond, which led to the escape when the center was subjected to extreme weather conditions.
At the time, Mowi Chile released a statement in which it denied any environmental damage and said it would appeal the fine, saying the SMA resolution “is based exclusively on a legal presumption that has no scientific basis.”
In the latest charge presented in a 38-page suit, the CDE asserts that the escape generated two types of environmental damage: "instantaneous damage in the significant loss, reduction, detriment or impairment of the environment, consisting of the sudden and massive incorporation of an approximate total of 651,991 individuals of the exotic species Salmo salar […and] contingent damage, consisting of the significant loss, reduction, detriment or impairment of the environment, as a consequence of the plurality of harmful effects that will manifest themselves in the future and whose causal courses are under development."
According to the document, the consequences of the introduction of thousands of exotic fish into the Reloncaví basin and estuary ecosystem “will produce considerable transformations in the biodiversity of the place, directly affecting native species. In effect, there is no way to recover the individuals of Atlantic salmon that have escaped, nor to reverse the effects of their escape, such as the consumption of native species and/or competition with them, or the alteration of habitats.”
As such, CDE requested reparatory measures including a study to measure biological diversity indicators; the execution of a repopulation program for native fish species that may have been the object of predation or displacement by the exotic species present in the area; and the creation of a fund to be handled by a public institution for the financing of research projects aiming to enhance the environmental and socio-cultural value of the Reloncaví basin and estuary.
The prosecutor also solicited updated studies on winds and marine currents, which shall serve as the basis for calculations used for the installation of cages in all the company's farming centers in the Los Lagos region.