The Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate (NVE) has fined the multinational salmon company MOWI for illegal water extraction at two of its hatcheries in Norway. The violations have been committed at hatcheries in the municipalities of Orkland, in Trøndelag, and Kinn, in Vestland County. The total to be paid after adding the two fines together is NOK 16.3 million (€ 1.5 million / $ 1.6 million). The amount is relatively high because, according to NVE's calculations, "the company has made good profits as a result of more fish in the facility."
"It is serious and very unfortunate when a licensee does not comply with the requirements given in the license. In the licensing process, comprehensive trade-offs are made between different interests. The requirements are set to safeguard public interests", Mari Hegg Gundersen, NVE's environmental inspection section manager for watercourse facilities, has stated in this regard.
Nevertheless, the NVE reminds the company that "MOWI ASA can appeal the decisions of the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy".
According to the statement made public by the NVE, in connection with the production of juvenile fish, MOWI has a license to regulate the water level of Slørdalsvatnet by 2 meters. The winter of 2021 was dry in Trøndelag and, in February of that year, MOWI applied for a permit to temporarily lower Slørdalsvatnet below the lowest permitted regulated water level. The application was rejected "out of consideration for public interests such as landscape, fish, and mussels". To the Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate, despite this refusal, the salmon company continued to drain, so that between February 15 and 26, 2021, the water level was below the lowest allowable regulated level. "A hatchery will plan the operation based on water inflow in dry years. There must also be a reservoir or backup water source to ensure a stable supply of water during extended periods of drought. We believe MOWI could have avoided this violation by taking more account of drought situations by having lower fish biomass at the facility", Gundersen has said.
The NVE considers that this illegal water extraction was used to keep just under 800,000 juvenile fish alive, which would represent a profit of approximately NOK 5 million (€ 484,726 / $ 508,182). The fine of NOK 5.3 million (€ 513,721 / $ 538,436) has been calculated based on these estimated profits.
In the same statement, the NVE explains that in December 2011, a license was granted for the regulation and extraction of water from the Haukå watercourse in the municipality of Kinn, for use in hatchery production. "Consideration of the fish in the watercourse was a key issue in the licensing process, and it was required that the average water extraction during the year should not exceed 20 cubic meters per minute", they say. The NVE claims that MOWI has had a higher than permitted average water withdrawal in the period 2012-2020, in addition to violating the water withdrawal record and minimum water flow release requirement for much of the same period.
Again, the NVE considers that this illegal water extraction has allowed the production of a larger number of juvenile fish. In this case, the benefit of illegal water extraction has been calculated at NOK 9.7 million (€ 940,636 / $ 985,911). The Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate assures that this is a conservative estimate, and, on this basis, the infringement fee has been calculated and set at NOK 11.0 million (€ 1.06 million / $ 1.11 million).