Arnarlax will appeal the decision of Iceland's Food and Veterinary Authority (MAST for its acronym in Icelandic) on an administrative fine of ISK 120 million (€815,541 / $846,400) for failing to report a fish escape. According to MAST's public announcement, 81,564 salmon were lost. For its part, the Icelandic SalMar-owned company claims that all company response processes, as well as laws and regulations, have been followed to the fullest extent both before and after the accident.
According to Iceland's Food and Veterinary Authority announcement, last October, during the slaughtering of sea pen 11 at Haganes in Arnarfjörður, it brought to light that the company could not account for the fate of at least 81,564 salmon. "A total of 132,976 salmon had been placed in the hatchery in October 2020 and July 2021. Recorded discards were 33,097 fish, but in October 2022, when the hatchery was slaughtered, the number that came out of the hatchery turned out to be only 18,315 salmon", MAST claimed.
The note subsequently released by Arnarlax recalls that the background to the case is that during a regular inspection at the end of August last year, a hole was found in one of the company's pens at Haganes, in Arnarfjörður. "The company's response plan was immediately activated, the hole was closed, and the Food and Fisheries Agency was notified of the case the same day. In consultation with the Norwegian Fisheries Agency, nets were laid out to confirm that the fish had escaped from the fish", it says.
In its statement, the company also notes that the MAST decision communicating the administrative fine specifically states that Arnarlax "has readily provided MAST with the requested information and that the company has not benefited from the alleged violation". Indeed, MAST acknowledged that the company's response was in line with the requirements made when such events occur. However, they also maintained that further investigation had revealed some deviations.
"When the numbers from the slaughter last October lay before and it was clear that it was not possible to account for the fate of more than 80 thousand salmon, MAST immediately started an investigation and demanded Arnarlax, among other things, for explanations of discrepancies in feeding, etc. given number of fish in the fish tank", they said. "It was then revealed that there had been significant deviations in the feeding of pen 11 since June 2021, or two months before the announcement of a hole in the pen last summer, which should have raised strong suspicions in the company that something serious was afoot".
Iceland's Food and Veterinary Authority considered that the lack of supervision of Arnarlax was reprehensible and had serious consequences. "This is a serious violation, both in terms of the scope and danger to wild commercial stocks and the environment, as well as that it is a violation that could have been prevented by better management and internal control of the company", they stated.
On its side, Arnarlax has stated that it regrets that the salmon escaped from the company's cage, but stressed that "the staff works hard every day to prevent this from happening". In this appeal announcement, the SalMar-owned company also said that, although it thinks that procedures were followed in this case, "the company will learn from this accident".