Chilean salmon farmer pulls out of national park in Patagonia

SANTIAGO (Reuters) - Chile salmon farmer Nova Austral plans to pull the pens it uses to raise salmon from the ocean waters off a national park near the southern tip of Chilean Patagonia, its chief executive said on Thursday.

A recent expansion of Chile’s Alberto de Agostini National Park left the company’s pens within park boundaries. The sprawling coastal park is home to several tidewater glaciers, deepwater fjords and a mountain range named after English naturalist Charles Darwin.

“We have agreed to emigrate out of the park,” CEO Nicos Nicolaides told reporters in Santiago, adding that the government had not required the company remove the pens.

Chile’s aquaculture regulator has said it will issue no new concessions inside the park.

Salmon farmers in Chile have come under increased scrutiny after nearly 700,000 fish swam into the wild last year when a storm damaged pens owned by Marine Harvest, which operates further north in Chile. Environmentalists have also criticized the industry’s use of antibiotics to stave off disease.

Nova Austral, owned by investment funds Bain Capital and Altor Fund III, operates only in the pristine waters of far southern Chile.

Nicolaides said the region’s frigid, glacier-fed waters have allowed it to raise salmon without the use of antibiotics since 2015.

The company said it would invest $80 million over two years to relocate the production from the 26 concessions it had within the park to new locations in the Magallanes region of Chile.

Chile is the world’s No. 2 producer of farmed salmon, behind Norway.

Reporting by Natalia Ramos; Writing by Dave Sherwood; Editing by Phil Berlowitz