Chile investigating salmon deaths likely due to toxic algae bloom

Published on
February 8, 2017

The Chilean salmon industry organization, Sernapesca, is investigating a massive fish die-off along the country’s southwestern coast.

Sernapesca is pointing to toxic algae as the cause of the fishkill in the Gulf of Penas, which was brought to its attention after a “massive mortality event” was reported in a shipment of smolts transported for their seeding at sea, as well as a cargo of salmon traveling for its harvest in Quellón.

Alicia Gallardo, deputy director of Aquaculture for Sernapesca, said the agency is coordinating with the Chilean Maritime Authority, the Institute of Fisheries Promotion (IFOP) and the Salmon Technology Institute (INTESAL), to investigate the presence of the microalga Karenia mikimotoi in the Gulf region.

While the investigation is underway, the government has set forth precautionary measures for the navigation of live fish transport vessels, “so that they avoid passing through the affected area or, if it is inevitable, do so with closed system (without recirculating the water), in order to reduce the mortality risk of the fish it transports,” Sernapesca said in a statement.

Eduardo Aguilera, regional director of Sernapesca Los Lagos, aimed to quell fears among those in the aquculture industry in Chile, emphasizing that the algae bloom is far from cultivation centers, so it would not have the same characteristics as the deadly algae bloom in February 2016, which caused millions of dollars of losses.

However, Sernapesca did not rule out the appearance of new algae blooms in other areas. The industry and government, including the Bivalve Mollusc Health Program (PSMB) Sernapesca and FIFG, are continuously monitoring for blooms, the organizations said in a press release.

“With these three sources of information, we maintain a constant control of the situation of the regions, in addition to the permanent monitoring of mortality in each farm,” Gallardo said.

Last October, Sernapesca incorporated new rules and shortened deadlines for the withdrawal of massive mortalities from the centers of cultivation.

“In the event of environmental contingencies that lead to massive mortalities [the agency] will require full compliance with these regulations both in the reporting times by companies and in their withdrawal periods,” the statement said.

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