salmon-farming company named Nova Austral has been quick to point out that its salmon are antibiotic free. According to the Los Angeles Times
, antibiotics-free salmon can fetch premiums of as much as 30% over in international markets.
Last month, an investigative report
published by local newspaper El Mostrador published that Nova Austral “had misreported its fish mortality data to regulators. Its salmon were dying in alarming numbers that had been hidden from the public” (Los Angeles Times
A number of scandals have hit the booming Chilean salmon industry in recent years, such as the incident in which 900,000 fish escaped
into the Pacific and the time an algae bloom
(that environmentalists attributed in part to salmon farming) wreaked havoc on the Chilean coastline. There’s no suggestion that Nova Austral sold diseased fish to retailers, but, this incident has touched a nerve in Chile — which produces about 25% of the world’s supply — in a way that those other incidents did not.
Regulators are pressing civil charges
and members of Chilean congress have called for tougher regulation, while Nova Austral’s top executive, Nicos Nicolaides, was abruptly pushed aside. The price on the company’s foreign bonds plunged to as low as 60 cents on the dollar.
This incident highlights another growing trend at a time when organic and green are all the rage among the world’s well-heeled consumers: The temptation to cut corners and to give products a veneer of sustainability is great, a practice called greenwashing.
“…While Nova Austral may not have been greenwashing in a strict sense — the fish are, after all, antibiotic free — what it did is a direct relative of it: faking the data to make their organic product look greener than it actually is.”
The salmon industry has long been riding the health trend. Demand grew an average 4.5% annually
in the decade ending 2017: faster than that for poultry, pork or beef.
Chile, second only to Norway in producing the most salmon, has benefited, with exports more than doubling over the last decade, totaling $4.7 billion last year.
“Salmon is Chile’s top export outside of mining and, with double-digit growth in the last three years, is seen as key to diversifying an economy that has been stuck in slow growth and overly reliant on copper production.”