The Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority (Matvælastofnun – MAST) has requested an official investigation into possible breaches of Arctic Fish on Law no. 71/2008 on Fish Farming following the company's reported escape last August when two holes were discovered at Kvígindisdal pier in Patreksfjörður. The Vestfjörður police are handling the case, although no further information has been made available at this time.
Speaking to WeAreAquaculture, Stein Ove Tveiten, CEO of Arctic Fish said that the company understands MAST's intentions and the need for this public inquiry, as it is required by law.
On August 21 Arctic Fish reported to the authorities an escape in one of its sea pens at Kvígindisdal in Patreksfjörður. According to information provided by the Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority, the two detected holes were about 20 x 30 cm in size and about two meters deep and were next to each other. At the time, there were more than 70,000 fish with an average weight of 5.5 kg in the cage.
MAST immediately launched an investigation in order to find out the reason for the escape, the number of fish removed, and also to investigate whether the company's internal quality processes have been respected in all aspects.
Thus, following the checks carried out, the analysis of the escaped fish caught, and the statements of the company's responsible persons, the Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority has taken the decision to request an official investigation into alleged breaches of the Fish Farming Law. As previously mentioned, the Vestfjörður police will be in charge of the investigation.
In announcing the initiation of the police work, MAST has stressed that, according to Section 22 of the Law, if the charges are serious, the board members and CEO of the licensee – in this case, Arctic Fish -, could face fines and even imprisonment for up to two years. Nevertheless, it would first have to be proven that the farmed salmon escaped from the farm as a result of intentional or negligent acts or omissions.
WeAreAquaculture has contacted Stein Ove Tveiten, CEO of Arctic Fish, who confirmed that on August 21 the company detected "two smaller holes" in one of its cages that were reported, and activated its response plan, in accordance with the law and regulations. "When we emptied the cage for harvesting, we had a deviation of 3462 fish, equal to 2,6 % of the total amount in the cage," he has stated.
"We are deeply sorry that salmon has escaped from our cages. We have been working hard to minimize the effect of the escape and many employees have already participated in an internal review of the incident," Tveiten has continued.
The company had already apologized in a statement in which it also informed that it was willing to cooperate with the authorities and bear the costs of measures taken to ensure that escaped salmon entering the rivers do not mix with wild salmon.
"We understand the intentions of MAST and the need for a public investigation on the cause of the hole in the net, as that is the obligation by law," Arctic Fish's CEO has now told WeAreAquaculture about the opening of the police investigation. "We will learn from this incident and continue our work to prevent escapes by the means and resources we have at our disposal," Stein Ove Tveiten has concluded.
Owned by Mowi since the end of 2022, Arctic Fish is one of Iceland's largest salmon farming companies. It operates in the country's West Fjords and holds licenses for 27,100 metric tons of salmon and trout production. Recognized as one of Iceland's leading salmon producers, the company has a sustainable licensing framework, actively operates in four fjords and has applications for an additional fjord, which could bring total capacity to 31,900 tons in the coming years.