Salmon farmers and government join forces to combat fish disease

aerial view of salmon farm

In an initiative inspired by the fight against Covid-19, salmon producers and the Chilean government have joined forces to tackle the problem of bacterial infection in farmed fish.

The project, which has been named “Yelcho”, involves eleven leading Chilean salmon farming companies, the Salmon Council, SalmonChile’s Salmon Technological Institute (Intesal) and is supported by Aquabench, a Chile-based research and analysis business.

Yelcho has now signed a formal collaboration agreement with Chile’s Agricultural and Livestock Service (SAG) and the National Fisheries and Aquaculture Service (Sernapesca), which aims to further facilitate the advancement of innovation and greater technical collaboration between authorities and the private sector.

Project Yelcho is described as “a precompetitive initiative” working towards the implementation of new solutions to prevent bacterial diseases and reduce the use of antibiotics.

Yelcho aims to work closely together with pharmaceutical companies to develop solutions for common bacterial diseases, including salmon Rickettsial syndrome (SRS). Since the companies started collaborating last year under the Yelcho name, they have been working closely with pharmaceutical companies to identify prospective areas for collaboration, with upcoming partnerships to be announced.

The project takes its name from the Yelcho, a small steam-powered cutter of the Chilean navy that in 1916 rescued the entire crew of the Endurance, polar explorer Ernest Shackleton’s ship, after the British vessel was crushed by pack ice in the Weddell Sea. Three prior attempts by other ships had failed and the Yelcho, which was not equipped for Antarctic conditions, became a byword for triumph against the odds.

A milestone moment

David Farcas, Director of Yelcho, said: “Yelcho is a milestone moment in the Chilean industry’s commitment to working towards the reduction of antibiotic use, in line with the World Health Organization’s antimicrobial resistance plan. Antibiotics can help prevent the spread of a disease and maintain fish welfare, but we recognize the need to reduce their use significantly.

Esteban Ramírez, General Manager of Intesal said: “The positive response we have received from the pharmaceutical industry to date shows that with the right environment, there is real drive to help seek out innovative solutions to reduce the Chilean salmon farming industry’s use of antibiotics.”

“This is the first public–private collaboration of its kind to catalyse innovation in our industry, and the involvement of SAG and Sernapesca in Yelcho is hugely significant.

“The whole point of Yelcho is to create an environment in which innovation can flourish, and having the involvement of the two main governmental institutions that regulate the use of pharmaceutical treatments will undoubtedly add huge value to Yelcho.”

Immediate upcoming activities for Project Yelcho include initiating a Technical-Scientific Committee working group, which will be made up of a multidisciplinary team of renowned scientists including Dr Alexis Kalergis, Director of the Millennium Institute on Immunology and Immunotherapy, and the technical counterparts of SAG and Sernapesca.

Fish farm in the sea, with mountains and dark clouds in the background

Salmon farm on the Chilean coast



Keep up with us

Fish Farmer May 2024 cover

The May 2024 issue of Fish Farmer is out now online