Peru’s fish oil factories are to be investigated at political level following reports of health problems and severe pollution.
It is alleged the industry is causing local children breathing problems, sores, and rashes, as well as contaminating the sea by releasing acid and sodium carbonate. Several major Norwegian players have invested heavily in these facilities.
Only one, Copeinca, has vowed to clean up. Austevoll Seafood AS, whose sister company the Austral Group runs a factory in Chimbote in the Ancash Region, has so far refused to comment to NRK following last week’s “Consumer Inspectors” programme.
In a letter to Managing Director Arne Møgster, Minister of the Environment Erik Solheim says, “At the same time that I was pleased a representative from the embassy in Santiago was received at the factory in Pisco at short notice yesterday, I am concerned about the conditions portrayed [in the documentary], both regarding the environment and health.
“I would generally assume that Austral and other Norwegian companies contribute to solving Peru’s challenges regarding the environment and poverty, and are not themselves part of the problem. I look forward to a discussion with you and Austral about the allegations made in the programme and how Austral deals with its corporate social responsibility in Peru.”
Austral and the other fish oil production companies have also been accused of illegal fishing, fishing for fry, and manipulating fish catch weights.
A general rebuttal from the International Fishmeal and Fish Oil Organisation (IFFO) criticises NRK for its programme claims “All industrial landings are subject to 24 hours/day and 7 days/week monitoring by independent inspectors. Fishing is only permitted outside spawning seasons and is stopped if high levels of juveniles are present in the catch.”
“According to my knowledge, Peru has introduced strict legislation to protect fish stocks, amongst other things. I will also be contacting Peru’s new government about this,” states Minister Solheim in the letter.
A ministry press spokesperson tells The Foreigner this will be one of the topics discussed with his Peruvian counterpart at the upcoming UN COP17/CMP7 Climate Change Conference in Durban, though not specifically about Austral/Austevoll.