Norwegian cod farming group Norcod has been ordered by the country's Directorate of Fisheries to cull fish in five of its cages across three locations after reports that some of the cod are in the process of developing into spawning fish.
The cull must be completed by April, and the company has submitted an updated harvest plan. In total, five pens will be culled, while the remaining cages will continue to be monitored.
The order comes after fishermen reported escaped farmed cod found in their nets in January.
Although Norcod has repeatedly stated that no damage or incidents have occurred that would have led to an escape, genetic analysis shows a high probability that the escaped fish originated from its farms.
Sexually mature farmed cod could be able to breed with wild fish, an issue that has been hotly debated since the first suspected catch of farmed cod.
IntraFish has contacted Norcod for comment, but has not yet received a reply.
Norcod, which trades on the Oslo Stock Exchange, warned last month of "a significant drop in earnings and a simultaneous increase in expensed costs per kilogram," should it be forced to accelerate its harvesting plans after last month's discovery of cod reaching maturity for spawning.
The company currently has five locations with close to 14,000 metric tons of maximum allowed biomass.
Norcod posted an operating loss of NOK 84.9 million (€7.8 million/$8.2 million) through the third quarter of last year, on sales of NOK 102.9 million (€9.3 million/$9.9 million).