Cermaq fined $500K for 2017 diesel spill at fish farm off Vancouver Island
A provincial court judge has ordered the owner of a fish farm off northern Vancouver Island to pay $500,000 for spilling more than 500 litres of diesel fuel into the ocean in 2017.
Cermaq Canada, which owns the farm in Echo Bay, approximately 70 kilometres east of Port Hardy, admitted to failing to do its due diligence to prevent the spill on March 5, 2017.
The company said the spill occurred when an employee, who was transferring diesel from one tank to another, tied a rope around the fuel nozzle to keep it engaged while he attended to other duties.
The employee forgot about the fuel pump until the following day.
The coast guard estimated that approximately 522 litres of marine diesel overflowed from the tank, while an environmental cleanup company estimated that 550 litres were spilled.
The cleanup effort lasted several days with Cermaq covering the $885,000 cost for the recovery and remediation work.
Judge Catherine Ann Crockett heard from experts who testified that diesel contains chemicals that are harmful to fish, but found the evidence "inconclusive" on whether marine life was harmed.
"It is simply not possible to measure the impact of the marine diesel on all organisms," the judge wrote in her ruling. "No one observed any dead fish, including the salmon in the pens. The amount of harmful substances in organisms such as clams quickly dissipated to the point there was no health risk for consumers."
The Crown sought a fine of $1.4 million for unlawfully depositing a deleterious substance in water frequented by fish in contravention of the Fisheries Act, while Cermaq proposed a fine of $250,000.
In addition to the $500,000 fine, Cermaq has been ordered to publish the court's decision on its website for 90 days.