Earthquake, ISA top farmed salmon discussion

By

Steven Hedlund

Published on
March 15, 2010

The aftermath of the Chilean earthquake and the prevention of fish disease outbreaks were among the hot-button issues a panel of industry experts juggled at the Future of Farmed Salmon seminar at the International Boston Seafood Show on Monday.

Fresh on the minds of the panelists, and the audience, was the 8.8-magnitude earthquake that rocked central Chile and killed more than 700 people on 27 February. But the earthquake’s epicenter near Concepcion is about 400 miles north of Puerto Montt, where the majority of salmon production occurs.

“There was really no impact on Puerto Montt at all — the farms and the processing plants are intact, and all of our employees are OK,” said Jason Paine, general manager of Multiexport Foods in Miami.

The earthquake came on a Saturday, but by Tuesday the airport in Santiago was up and running and by Wednesday Multiexport had resumed processing and shipping product, said Paine.

“The immediate impact on us was logistics and transportation,” added Nell Halse, VP of communications for Cooke Aquaculture in New Brunswick, which operates Salmones Cupquelan SA in Chile’s region XI. “Product is moving. It’s just taking longer. It’s added two hours on the trip from Puerto Montt to Santiago.

Panelists also addressed Chile’s recovery from the infectious salmon anemia (ISA) virus, and the regulations the Chilean government passed last week to prevent another widespread outbreak.

“The ISA situation has been nothing short of catastrophic for the Chilean salmon industry. But [Multiexport] has not seen any more ISA cases in the past year,” said Paine. “The new regulations focus on biosecurity, sanitation and, most importantly, zone management. There were 58 zones created in Chile, so there are only certain times of year you can enter smolt into the water, certain times of year you can harvest and certain times of year sites must remain dormant. Those management practices are really controlling the spread of the disease.”

Chile is expected to produce up to 90,000 metric tons of Atlantic salmon this year, said Paine. The country raised 200,000 metric tons in 2009 and 390,000 metric tons in 2008. Paine said Chile expects to produce an additional 30,000 to 40,000 metric tons in 2011 and an additional 40,000 to 50,000 metric tons in 2012.

SLICE, or emamectin benzoate, which is used to treat sea lice infestations in farmed salmon, also came up in the discussion.

“We’re seeing reduced effectiveness of SLICE,” said Halse. “It is a challenge, because ideally we wouldn’t use any chemicals. We’d rather use other treatments, so we’re exploring alternatives. The real issue is implementing an integrated area management program, and you’ll be much more effective [in preventing disease].”

More coverage of the 2010 International Boston Seafood Show >

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