Fish oil factories in Peru with Norwegian investors have been found to endanger the environment and health, reports say.
The oil can be found in many of the Omega-3 capsules sold in Norway. A lot of these pills sold do not contain cod liver oil made from fish from Lofoten, but from anchovies caught in Peru.
Peru is the world’s largest producer of fish oil. However, the product results in waste that is a danger to the environment as well as the local people who live near the factories.
NRK’s Consumer Inspectors (FBI) documented how waste from the factories has damaged the marine life along the coast of Peru.
"The seabed smells of sulphur. It is full of jelly-like, bacterial saturated organic matter. There is no life there,” environmentalist Stefan Austermühle says following his ten-metre deep dive with the broadcaster’s cameraman.
The fishermen are now being forced to fish further away as no marine life can survive close to the factories. Some release caustic soda.
Other locals have found another way to earn money, meanwhile. Having made holes in factory waste pipes themselves, men, women and even children use ladles or their bare hands to collect the grease and sell it as fuel. Approximately 600 families make a living from this, mostly anglers.
Oscar Eduardo Saenz Armas is one of the leaders of these “fat workers”. He spoke to NRK about the factories.
“The problem is that companies began releasing acid and sodium carbonate into the sea. All the businesses are helping to pollute the sea. They are lying if they say they do not pollute,” he alleges.
It is not just the waste that is causing problems. Smoke released from the factories is also causing health concerns. The FBI inspection discovered many of the local children had sores and rashes caused by the exposure to the smoke.
“Inhaling the smoke causes infections and allergic reactions. The most serious is the impairment of breathing capacity in the form of pulmonary fibrosis. Children are the most vulnerable and the most susceptible to respiratory problems,” says Dr. Ramon de la Cruz, county medical officer for the Ancash region of Chimbote who has seen the problems caused by pollution.
According to NRK, two Norwegian companies have heavy ownership interests in 13 of Peru’s fish oil factories; the Austral Group, a sister company to Austevoll Seafood, one of whose factories is in Pisco, and Copeinca, with a factory in Chimbote in addition to other places. The factories along Peru’s coastline both produce fish oil and meal from anchovies.
Public documents the broadcaster was permitted access to show all of the legal breaches committed by companies over a four-year period from 2006.
Some of the offences include illegal fishing, fishing for fry, emissions from factories and manipulating fish catch weights. Both the Austral Group and Copeinca are listed for 352 of some of these offences. In response to NRK’s revelations, only one company, Copeinca “has promised to improve matters”.
“The fishing sector is working very hard not to pollute the bays and harbours. By the end of the year, we would have started work on laying a pipeline almost eight kilometres out to sea where you have been in Chimbote so that we can diffuse the discharge in deep water,” says Managing Director Pablo Trapunsky in Peru.
Austevoll Seafood has declined requests for interview, as have importers and refiners of fish oil in Norway Epax and GC Reiber. Ayanda, one of the companies producing the actual Omega 3 capsules has also refused NRK’s requests.
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