Nova Austral successfully appeals sanction on one of its grow-out centers

A Nova Austral salmon farm in Chile.

Punta Arenas, Chile-based salmon farmer Nova Austral has successfully appealed a sanction levied by the Chilean Superintendency of the Environment (SMA) that aimed to revoke the company’s environmental license for its Cockburn 14 grow-out center.

The July 2022 sanction, which the SMA hailed at the time as a “historic decision” against “a recalcitrant offender,” targeted three of Nova Austral’s farming centers – Cockburn 14, Cockburn 23, and Aracena 10 – for exceeding permitted production between 2015 and 2017. After issuing the sanction, the environmental regulator ordered the company to present a timeline for closing the centers, all of which are located within the Alberto de Agostini National Park in the Magallanes region.

According to the court’s latest ruling, the SMA’s sanctioning resolution “lacks due legal argument and, therefore, the sanction is disproportionate” in the case of Cockburn 14.

The court questioned the SMA’s reasoning that led it to the heaviest sanctions rather than lower-intensity sanctions which would have fulfilled the same purpose. It added that “there were not reasonable and sufficient reasons to apply, in this particular case, the sanction of revocation of the environmental license” and called on the SMA to issue a new, proportional sanction in accordance with the law.

Appeals for the other two sites are still under review, offering a sliver of hope for the beleaguered Nova Austral, which is reportedly USD 560 million (EUR 530 million) in debt and struggling to stave off bankruptcy.

Environmental nonprofits, such as Greenpeace, which has sponsored a campaign against salmon farming in Chile’s national parks and nature reserves, were quick to criticize  the court’s decision on Cockburn 14.

The SMA said it is analyzing the court ruling and evaluating possible next steps. It highlighted that Nova Austral overstepped production limits by up to 35 percent, which involved an exponential increase in feed and fish feces and contributed to the depletion of oxygen on the seafloor, among other environmental infractions.

While the SMA seeks to shut down Nova Austral’s operations at the three sites, the looming possibility of closures is concerning ... 

Photo courtesy of Nova Austral

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