Salmon farmers assess earthquake’s impact

Aquaculture companies with operations in Chile are reporting minimal or no damage after an 8.8-magnitude earthquake left more than 700 people dead.

The epicenter of the 8.8-magnitude earthquake was in the central part of the country near Concepcion, whereas most salmon production occurs in the southern part of Chile near cities such as Puerto Montt.

Both Cermaq and Cooke Aquaculture, which have operations in Puerto Montt, said none of its employees were physically harmed during the earthquake. Nell Halse, VP of communications for Cooke in New Brunswick, said it’s still too soon to assess the full extent of the impact on business operations.

“Our farms have not been affected. Fortunately they are well out of range from where the earthquake and tsunamis hit,” Halse told SeafoodSource on Monday. “But the difficulty now is assessing the impact on the business, especially transportation and communication. It’s going to take a couple of days before we actually find the full impact.”

Halse said a Cooke manager who lives in Sanitago reported that things were starting to return to normal, but that roads and bridges are damaged and won’t be repaired for a while.

“We have heard that the government is putting up temporary structures to get things moving again,” said Halse. “It’s too soon to know for sure if it will have any affect on [salmon] prices. It depends on how quickly the transportation stoppage gets fixed.

“[On Saturday] we were told [the Santiago airport] would be open within 48 hours, but we haven’t heard anything definite,” she added.

On Monday, Cermaq released a statement stating none of the approximate 250 employees at its EWOS feed factory suffered injuries, and damages to its properties were limited. However, the company said limited information has been available due to communication being down.

The EWOS plant has finished goods stocked in Puerto Montt that were not affected by the earthquake and may serve customers for one week. Cermaq will postpone harvesting for a few days to ensure that deliveried to the airport can be made.

Cooke is also waiting to hear if product stored in the area is unharmed.

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