ISA Prompts Dismal Forecasts for Chilean Salmon Producers

The spread of infectious salmon anemia (ISA) will continue to hamper production, a Chilean farmed salmon industry association predicted yesterday.

SalmonChile says salmon production could fall by as much as 20 percent this year, possibly dipping as low as 275,000 metric tons. Chile, the world's second-largest producer of farmed salmon, produced nearly 400,000 metric tons of salmon in 2007 worth more than $2.2 billion.

"We've had many crises in the history of the industry. I'd say that this is one of them," SalmonChile representative Carlos Odebret told the Patagonia Times. "Every time we come across a new virus or bacteria in the water, it's difficult to control. Trying to control the water is like trying to control the air."

ISA is a highly contagious virus that can be deadly to fish but does not affect humans. The disease first appeared in Chile in mid-2007 and has spread throughout the country's major salmon-producing areas known as Regions X, XI and XII.

Chile's National Fishing Service (SERNAPESCA) recently added eight new salmon farms to its outbreak list, now encompassing 22 sites. SERNAPESCA also cites 25 farms as "suspicious," while 78 sites are under quarantine and 46 farms are "temporarily decommissioned," which means they have eliminated all fish, disinfected all facilities and agreed to remain inoperative for three months.

Authorities estimate that ISA has cost the industry approximately $30 million in the first six months of this year; about 2,000 jobs have been eliminated.

In more promising news, a Chilean laboratory called Recalcine is reportedly in the testing phase of an ISA vaccine. The biological vaccine contains no antibiotics and could be used as a preventative medicine for small, healthy fish.


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