Chile plans deepwater salmon farm to reverse poor yields

Jan. 12, 2010 at 11:20 AM
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SANTIAGO, Chile, Jan. 12 (UPI) -- Chile will launch its first deepwater salmon farming project with a Norwegian loan to try and reverse the low yields on salmon amid constant global demand.

The offshore project is the brainchild of a Chilean business group that has been pledged $40 million by Norwegian banks, with the promise it can have access to more funds if the venture takes off.

Disease and economic downturn have hit Chile's salmon industry hard over the past two years. Conventional fish farms have reported loss of stocks due to viral attacks and bacteria that decimate fish stocks in great numbers.

The new project will involve floating of large rafts at sea with significant numbers of Atlantic salmon positioned at great depths. Officials for the Chilean company, Acuicola Tripanko, said the whole complex could cover 1,300 hectares initially in the Punta Olleta region in southern Chile.

"This would be the first experience of its kind in the area, farming salmon in deep and oceanic waters with special technologies and conditions that might avoid disease outbreaks due to strong sea currents," the said.

The copper mesh cages to be deployed could also help the fight against bacteria, industry analysts said.

Currently Acuicola Tripanko is awaiting the results of findings by the public-sector Environmental Impact Assessment System.

Acuicola Tripanko CEO Omar Guenul said much was at stake in the project, because it differed greatly from the conventional fish farms. He said the deep-sea construction was designed to address the sanitary issues that have blighted conventional fish farms.

The copper mesh cages are said to prevent exposure of salmon to viruses such as Infectious Salmon Anemia and decrease mortality rates in the farms, the Santiago Times reported.

Similar systems have been tried and tested elsewhere and currently exist in Alaska, Canada, Scotland and Norway, MercoPress reported.

Fish farming is expanding in Latin America, and according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization 45 percent of the fish consumed in the world comes from fish farms. That amounts to more than 50 million tons, but by 2030 the volume would need to double because of the decline in commercial fishing and the increasing demands of a growing population, FAO said.

Contrary to popular assumptions, fish farming in Latin America dates back to pre-modern times, and there is evidence that the Maya culture operated controlled fish production in natural pools.

Fish farming has grown dramatically in recent years in Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, Mexico and Peru, but in Argentina, weather conditions have prevented large-scale fish farming.

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