The Erika pollution raised a previously unencountered problem, at least on such a scale: that of the local production of salt in Guérande and Noirmoutier.
The pollution from the Erika raised the question of the acceptable quality of the water for filling fens in April, which was necessary for a proper harvest in the year 2000. Pre-spill concentration levels of 16 PAH, considered as priority pollutants, ranged between 5 and 20 ng/l in the water. After the spillage, water pollution in the fens area (fortunately protected by earth dams) ranged from 20 to over 300 ng/l. In order to respect the precaution principle as regards health and the environment, salt producers in Guérande and Mes voted against fens filling and, as a consequence, against harvesting in 2000. The producers in Noirmoutier chose to harvest.
This different response from two production areas to an apparently identical situation can be explained by 3 factors. First, the Guerande producers had much more invested over the past years in building a country-wide reputation for their salt and they could not afford to run the risk of ruining that reputation. Secondly, they were facing the threat of an oil slick buried in the entrance channel to their intake bay, which could be removed only in early 2001. Finally, they had a standing stock capable of supplying sales needs in 2000 with the merit of showing to their buyers their full commitment to "quality first" (but with a risk of running short of salt in the coming years, should successive low harvests occur).