Maximum reached: Cooke Chile ordered to halt transfer of more fish into national park site

Environment agency Superintendencia del Medio Ambiente (SMA) has ordered Cooke Aquaculture Chile to cease the planned transfer of 170,000 salmon into its Huillines 3 salmon growout farm in the south of the country because of the “imminent danger to the environment” that such move poses.

According to the local media, the Canadian-owned salmon farmer has already stocked 432,352 fish at the site and requested a new permit on October 17 to stock another 170,000 fish. But the SMA said these 170,000 salmon would represent an excess of more than 2,000 tonnes of the authorized mass at this facility.

Cooke’s Huillines 3 farm had not undergone an initial environmental assessment when it entered into operation because it was not required by Chilean regulations at the time, said the SMA in a statement.

Stocking the additional fish is likely to have environmental impacts on the water column, seafloor, and aquatic flora and fauna of the national park where the farm is located, said the SMA. The park is both a state-protected area and a UNESCO biosphere reserve.

“Any modification of an installation, such as the increase in its production, ‘must be the subject of an environmental assessment … if it is likely to cause environmental impacts, which obviously occurs in this case,” environment official Emanuel Ibarra was quoted as saying by local news outlets.

Since 2021, Cooke has been cited for nine environmental breaches in three different facilities, said the SMA.

Cooke says it is working to prove the allegations are unfounded.

“We are now working through litigation in Chile to prove alleged violations by SMA are without merit, and we are working with Subpesca to find a reasonable solution regarding the location of the two farms (Huillines 2 and 3) in proximity to the National Park. Cooke has been operating the same two farm licenses since acquiring the operation from a previous owner in 2008. We are disappointed and surprised by the actions being taken by SMA, however we are confident that it will be resolved,” Joel Richardson, VP of Public Relations at Cooke Aquaculture, told SalmonBusiness.