Fish farm company fined $ 500,000 for 2017 Echo Bay diesel spill

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A company that pleaded guilty to a major diesel spill at one of its northern island fish farms has been fined $ 500,000 by a provincial court judge.

A company that pleaded guilty to a major diesel spill at one of its northern island fish farms has been fined $ 500,000 by a provincial court judge.

Cermaq Canada dumped approximately 500 liters of diesel into Echo Bay approximately 70 kilometers east of Port Hardy in March 2017, when an employee transferred fuel from a large tank to a smaller one. The fuel spilled over a mile radius and the company was charged under the Fisheries Act for illegally depositing a harmful substance in the ocean.

The Crown had demanded that Cermaq, a subsidiary of global business giant Mitsubishi, be fined $ 1.4 million.

However, Judge Catherine Crockett said in her ruling that there had been no proven significant damage to fish or other marine life and Cermaq had accepted responsibility and elected to plead guilty. The company also spent nearly $ 900,000 on the cleanup and apologized on its corporate website.

“The consequences of this incident for Cermaq to date, including the monetary cost and damage to its reputation, go a long way in making Cermaq understand the need to ensure that its systems and training are sufficient to prevent breaches. similar in the future, ”Crockett wrote. in his decision.

“Nevertheless, I have to impose a fine depending on the size of the company and the relative financial means of Cermaq, so that the fine could not be considered by Cermaq, or other companies that operate in the marine environment. , just like the cost of doing business. I agree with the Crown that general deterrence is particularly important in the context of the fish farming industry that operates directly on the ocean.

According to court documents, a Cermaq employee used a rope to tie off the fuel nozzle to ensure continuous flow while leaving the area to perform other tasks – without following posted instructions on fuel transfers.

The nozzle was left attached overnight, with the smaller tank overflowing into the ocean.

There was no fish mortality associated with the spill and all of the Atlantic salmon raised at the site were then processed and sold after being tested by federal regulators.

The company also avoided feeding the fish, which would attract them to the surface, where the fuel was concentrated.

The operation where the spill occurred has since been decommissioned.

Crockett said Cermaq has updated the policies and procedures of its operating fish farms and has hired professionals to review fuel handling facilities.

Read the court decision here.

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