Marine Harvest's shares took a dive after the French TV documentary aired. (Photo: Stock File/ FIS)
Norwegian farmed salmon pesticide sours food relations
Thursday, July 01, 2010, 15:20 (GMT + 9)
Norwegian salmon producer Marine Harvest Group’s shares fell steeply to a 2010 low after a French TV documentary criticised pesticide use in salmon feed and as investors got ready for a rival Morpol's listing.
Marine Harvest shares dropped 5.1 per cent to NOK 4.45 (USD 0.68), having before reached a low of NOK 4.26 (USD 0.68) on Wednesday.
The company’s smaller peers, Cermaq and Salmar, both skid 2.3 per cent, respectively. The Oslo bourse's benchmark index fell 3.2 per cent, reports Reuters.
Shown on public television on Monday, the documentary condemned the Norwegian salmon industry for employing the pesticide diflubenzuron in feed to treat farmed salmon for infectious sea lice, saying it is environmentally harmful and toxic for fish.
TV coverage of the topic “Risks on a Plate” on the show “Exhibits” told that most fish on the French market does not meet toxicity safety standards, The Foreigner reports.
Norway's Fisheries Minister Lisbeth Berg-Hansen called the chemical safe for humans and fish and approved for use in aquaculture both in Norway and the European Union (EU).
"Diflubenzuron is not dangerous to the salmon, but to salmon lice," she told.
She specified that it was a last resort method to rid the fish of lice.
French Agriculture Minister Bruno Le Maire was a guest on the show along Dr Patrice Halimi, Secretary General of the Association for Health and Environment France, and asserted he was “shocked” by the findings. Le Maire was “revolted” by the knowledge that fish are fed pesticides, especially as “no one knows what damage they can cause to human health.”
He contacted Berg-Hansen once aware of the report, the French ministry said.
"In response, Berg-Hansen ... said that Norwegian farmed salmon producers use a veterinary medicine authorised by national authorities, issued after a scientific evaluation that looked at all safety issues," the French Ministry said in a statement.
Sea lice are a chief problem for fish farmers because the salmon live so close together in giant nets off the coast. The parasite kills salmon and has caused millions of dollars worth of losses for the industry.
Analysts noted that Morpol's share issue was drawing liquidity from investors in the sector and some said the French TV report was not the main catalyst, according to Reuters.
"There is no doubt that the French market is the biggest market for (Norwegian) salmon, and an incredibly important market for Norway, but I simply do not think this affects the share price all that much," DnB NOR Markets analyst Klaus Hatlebrekke opined.
Morpol was listed on Oslo Bourse on Wednesday, having on Monday issued 66 million shares at NOK 22 (USD 3.39) per share.
By Natalia Real