FishWise In South America

Created on Thursday, 12 January 2012

FishWise staff members recently travelled to South America to attend the Global Aquaculture Alliance, Global Outlook for Aquaculture Leadership (GOAL) conference in Santiago, Chile. The theme of the conference, “Double in a Decade-Responsibly”, was meant to address the looming challenge of how to rapidly, but sustainably, expand aquaculture production to meet skyrocketing global seafood demands. Seafood industry personnel, members of environmental organizations, government agencies and academic institutions all attended the conference. Presenters discussed current global aquaculture production statistics and new technologies, as well as the environmental concerns associated with aquaculture production as it increases worldwide.chile

With the GOAL conference held in Santiago this year, much attention was given to the recovery of Chile’s Atlantic salmon production after a devastating outbreak of the Infectious Salmon Anemia (ISA) virus in 2008. The ISA outbreak forced the closure of many farms and processing plants and caused many workers to lose their jobs. In response to the ISA crisis, Chilean authorities developed new laws and regulations to get the outbreak under control and to prevent future occurrences. These laws included the zoning of all salmon farms, decreased stocking densities and increased biosecurity measures. These new measures have helped to reduce reported cases of the ISA virus, allowing farms and processing plants to reopen and Chilean salmon production to recover to pre-outbreak production levels.

While in the region, FishWise staff members visited a salmon hatchery and several farms run by one of Chile’s largest salmon producers. The farms visited had strict fish health and biosecurity measures in place. We also toured an environmentally preferable closed containment hatchery facility in which 95% of all water used during production was re-circulated.

Despite the improved regulation and management, Atlantic salmon production in Chile remains a controversial practice. Farming is conducted in large open water net pens that allow for the release of animal waste and chemicals into the environment. The use of open net pens also increases the risk of Atlantic salmon escaping and having detrimental impacts on the ecosystem and other species. Aquaculture production of large carnivorous animals such as salmon also requires fish protein to be incorporated into their diets which can have significant impacts on wild fish populations that are harvested for fish meal and fish oil. For these reasons open net pen salmon farming remains on the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch red list.