When Arnarlax, an Icelandic aquaculture company, harvested their fish pens in Arnafjörður this October, they only found some 18,000 salmon. According to their records of how many salmon were supposed to be in the pen, upwards of 80,000 salmon were unaccounted for, likely having escaped from the damaged pens this summer.
Now, the Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority (MAST) has decided to fine Arnarlax ISK 120 million [USD 857,700; EUR 819,200] for having failed in their responsibility to report the extent of the escape.
According to Arnarlax records, some 130,000 fish have been raised in the pens in question between October 2020 and July 2021. Official Arnarlax records recorded losses of around 33,000 fish, but when time came for harvest this October, the fish stocks were much lower than expected, leaving more than 80,000 unaccounted for.
This past August, Arnarlax did report a hole in one of its Arnarfjörður pens. According to MAST at the time, Arnarlax responded appropriately to the incident, repairing the damaged pen and reporting the incident to the authorities.
Since then, however, many farmed salmon have been found in the region’s rivers, including the Mjólká river, which is near the facility.
Now, however, MAST is calling attention to the discrepancy between Arnarlax’s reported figures at the time of the incident and the most recent figures from the harvest.
Two months before the incident, significant changes in the feeding pattern of the pen were recorded, which should have alerted Arnarlax to a potential leak in the pen, claims MAST.
MAST states it is taking the incident seriously, as escaped farmed fish can pose a risk to wild fish populations. MAST claims that the incident could have been prevented by better oversight. The fine it is now levelling against Arnarlax is to highlight the severity of the negligence and potential impact to the environment.