New Year, Same Problem


James Wright, Senior Editor

Published on
January 11, 2009

The global farmed salmon industry has been beset with controversy since its inception some two-plus decades ago. But none of the environmental issues or not-in-my-back-yard opposition can compare to what producers continue to face in the persistent infectious salmon anemia (ISA), which is now confirmed in both the Southern and Northern Hemispheres.

German Serrano, an analyst at financial services provider BanChile Inversiones in Santiago, told Bloomberg last week that Chile, which trails only Norway in global salmon production, may cut output by more than 30 percent this year. His grim forecast is partly due to ISA and also to the sharp decline in demand, particularly in the recession-hit United States and Japan.

The virus, which first appeared in Chilean waters in mid-2007, has spread recently with the help of warm weather in the Southern Hemisphere, according to the Bloomberg report. What’s more, rough seas recently damaged some offshore cages resulting in nearly 700,000 escaped fish, some of which are suspected to be carrying the ISA virus.

ISA in Chile resulted in third-quarter losses at Norway-based Marine Harvest ASA and Multiexport Foods SA of Puerto Montt, Chile. The virus, which doesn’t affect humans, kills some salmon and weakens others, making the fish more vulnerable to other diseases. ISA devastated Atlantic Canada salmon farms during the 1990s; it’s also recently reappeared at a farm off the coast of Scotland.

Because ISA’s biggest impact is on inventories and not the surrounding environment, the activist community has been relatively quiet, allowing producers to fight their battle with little interference. Still, little progress on halting the spread of ISA has been reported. With the downturn in demand, there’s no better time than now to make defeating ISA the industry’s No. 1 priority.

Thank you,
James Wright
Associate Editor
SeaFood Business

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