Chilean salmon industry on alert with new round of algae blooms

Published on
February 15, 2018

A rise in cases of harmful algae blooms has Chilean fishing authorities and its salmon farming industry on high alert, as companies have reported more than 2,450 metric tons (MT) of mortalities as a result.

Harmful algae blooms have been reported in three different farming zones so far in 2018, according to the latest report from Sernapesca, the Chilean national fisheries and aquaculture service.

The most affected region is Aysen, where 68 salmon farming centers have been affected, resulting in 1,066 MT of dead biomass. The Lakes Region has had 11 centers report mortalities, for a total of 33 MT of losses. The Magallanes Region in Chile’s extreme south has had only one center affected, which resulted in a loss of 311 MT of salmon.

In its statement, Sernapesca emphasized that all the mortalities are being processed in land facilities, taken either to fishmeal facilities for processing, or being transported to authorized landfills for disposal. 

Chile’s last mass algae bloom occurred in 2016, resulting in more than 24 million dead salmon, rocking the industry and its biggest players.

Sernapesca said that the toxic Alexandrium catenella dinoflagellates species has been detected in 56 of the affected fisheries, although other strains have also been detected. 

Authorities are performing routine patrols and flyovers of fisheries to monitor the algae’s growth, the disposal of affected biomass, and ensure fishing firms are heeding guidelines established by the industry regulators. 

Sernapesca started to increase its monitoring of the situation in mid-January after an apparent increase in cases at that time.

Sernapesca and Chile’s Health Ministry have also issued a red tide alert in Aysen. In a statement the fisheries service said that the alert was needed to protect the general population and workers and fisheries, and the government will dedicate a subsidy for workers affected by the situation.

The red tide is particularly toxic for shellfish extracted in the area, and authorities say they have adopted measures to protect both residents and visitors to the region.

Reporting from Santiago, Chile

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