Danish trout farmer Hjarno Havbrug is pleading not guilty to charges that it saved upwards of €25.4 million ($28.8 million) by illegally flushing excess volumes of nitrogen and phosphorus into the ocean.

The Southeast Jutland Police allege the company violated the Danish environmental protection act and other criminal codes with discharges that occurred in 2015.

The investigation coincides with a political debate on the future of aquaculture in Denmark.

Danish Environment Minister Lea Wermelin has been fighting against new aquaculture projects in the country, and preventing existing ones from expanding since she was appointed in 2019.

A group representing Denmark's fish farmers said Wermelin's support for land-based fish farming over traditional netpen farming is misguided, and comes at the urging of an environmental group whose members stand to profit from the move.

In 2019, the liberal government preceding Wermelin conducted a thorough research on netpen farming, which concluded at the end of the year.