Algae attack hits Chilean salmon giant

Salmones Camanchaca, one of Chile’s main salmon farming and processing companies, has been badly hit by an algal bloom invasion which is expected to cost the business at least US $3.5m (£2.53m).

The incidents occurred in the Los Lagos region in the south of the country and have led to the deaths, so far, of around 162,000 fish.

Another salmon company, Multiexport Foods, is also reported to have been affected and the mortality in this second incident is thought to be around 120 tonnes.

Algal blooms are a natural phenomenon which are very difficult to control or predict. They suck up so much oxygen in the water that the fish in farm cages suffocate.

A similar outbreak in part of northern Norway in the spring of 2019 cost companies around £170m. The attack was severe and lasted almost three weeks and led to the loss of 14,500 tonnes of fish, about 6.5% of the biomass of Nordland and Troms, the two regions worst hit. The Norwegian government later compensated those companies that had been affected.

The last big Chilean algae attack took place in March 2016 – exactly five years ago – when more than 23 million salmon died, totalling 38,000 tonnes.

The Chilean authorities said last night most of the dead fish have been removed and they were now monitoring the bloom, which is thought to have started over a week ago. It has since increased.

Salmones Camanchaca told a local radio station the company was maintaining control of the situation and was working with the marine authorities to put its own contingency plan into operation.

The mortality cases in Salmones Camanchaca have affected the Nieves and Puerto Argentino farming centres.

The current losses constitute 1.4 per cent of the company’s total fish stock and 2.9 per cent of biomass.

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