Subpesca tightens regulations on cages to avoid sinking, fish escapes

Chile’s Undersecretary of Fisheries and Aquaculture (Subpesca) is preparing new, more stringent regulations on salmon farming structures in order to reduce the risk of cages sinking or fish escaping, the fishing authority announced.

The move is in direct response to salmon farmer Blumar’s cages sinking in heavy storms on 27 June at its Caicura grow-out center, resulting in mass mortality and escapes. The company is still working to define what to do with the 16 cages that sank of the center’s total 18, leading an estimated 771,405 salmon – equivalent to 88 percent of the fish in the center and weighing in at an estimated at 2,900 metric tons (MT) – to perish at a depth of 295 meters.

"The new regulations are part of the continuous review of the regulatory requirements to which the industry must submit in order to maintain high standards of safety and environmental protection, and avoid episodes such as the cage collapses and fish escapes that occurred a few weeks ago," Subpesca head Román Zelaya said.

New element-related methodologies – measuring factors include currents, winds, and waves – are to be considered in determining the dimensions of the moorings and other factors that guarantee the safety and security of the cages.

In the meantime, Chile’s environment regulator SMA ordered Blumar to present within 10 working days an early warning plan, outlining the specific actions to be carried out if variables exceed marine environment norms as a consequence of the mortality.

According to the Chilean Association of Naval Engineers and Builders (Aicnach), the existing Environmental Regulation for Aquaculture (RAMA) is weak.

“It is generic, there are no specific details, and it doesn’t name any of the other Chilean standards to use, either for metallic structures or for netting,” Aicnach officials told SalmonExpert, adding that the country’s naval engineers have the skills required to guarantee more resilient structures.

The new Subpesca regulation, which modifies the current RAMA, is based on data gathered in a study by the Fisheries Research Fund (FIPA), developed by Chile’s Universidad Católica de Valparaíso.

Photo courtesy of Chile's Superintendent of the Environment (SMA)


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