Algae detected at Invermar center, putting nearly a million salmon at risk
Chile’s National Fisheries and Aquaculture Service (Sernapesca) has activated contingency plans after salmon-farming firm Invermar reported mass mortality at one of its farms.
The microalgae cochlodinium was detected at Invermar’s Tepun production center in Quellón, which was holding a total population of 937,257 coho salmon weighing approximately 780 grams each, according to a release from Sernapesca. The exact number of deaths at the facility has yet to be confirmed.
Upon learning of the mortalities, Sernapesca officials immediately visited the farming center to confirm that the dead fish were “being withdrawn with the logistics available," according to the release. Officials have submitted a report to the national inter-institutional committee on environmental contingencies. To date, no other cultivation centers have been detected with abnormal mortality rates due to algae or other causes, according to Sernapesca In the meantime, the agency has reinforced its surveillance strategy to monitor mortality reports by companies in the area.
The incident comes at an unfortunate time for Chile’s fishing sector. Invermar’s Quellón plant is located on the island of Chiloé, where local protests against salmon farming activities – together with the national government’s move to cordon off the island to protect the residents against the spread of COVID-19 – have interrupted the logistics chain for the care of salmon stocks, hampering the care of salmon in grow-out facilities and the transport of stock to processing centers.
Invermar has already been suffering financially. The company’s then-general manager Paul Weber Silva stepped down in January amid a failed attempt to de-list from the Santiago Stock Exchange, and third-quarter 2019 losses of USD 14.3 million (EUR 12.9 million) compared to net profits of USD 16.1 million (EUR 14.5 million) during the same period of 2018, due to fair value adjustments and increased sales costs.
Cristián Fernández Jeria took over as general manager in January 2020.