BUENOS AIRES, March 28 (UPI) -- Latin American fisheries are set to benefit from the misfortunes of Japanese marine food industries in the wake of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, fisheries data indicated.
Argentine fisheries' response to Japan's troubles isn't yet clear but the decimation of Japanese fishing operations in regions worst hit by the earthquake and tsunami has pushed Chile's coho salmon producers in the forefront.
At least one-fifth of the salmon industry in Japan's worst-hit areas is either at a standstill or has been destroyed. Key fishing ports in at least six coastal provinces are shut, awaiting massive reconstruction.
This has created opportunities for Latin American fishing industries, the data indicated.
Chile is one of the world's largest salmon exporters but also is one the few countries outside Japan that produce and distribute coho salmon, the Pacific salmon known in North America as silver salmon.
Coho salmon breeds and thrives in salt water and is in great demand in Japan as well as along Latin America's Pacific coast.
Chilean fishing industry officials said Japanese consumers would likely turn to Chile to make up for their losses.
Japan produced 30,000 tons of the salmon last year but couldn't prevent a shortfall due to high demand. Of about 83,000 tons of salmon and 61 tons of trout exported by Chile in 2001, Japan received about 83 percent.
The current coho salmon season began in September and comes to a close this month.
Chilean fishing industry sources couldn't say if Japan would rely on frozen stocks or begin to order more from Chile in the near future.
The coho salmon prices were already on the rise before the catastrophic impact of the tsunami on Japan's coastal fishing industries.
"The Chilean industry is still unsure if Japan will wait till 2012 to begin importing," said The Santiago Times.
The industry also estimates a rise in salmon prices, which had begun this year before Japan's earthquake and tsunami.
Japan is also likely to increase trout imports from Latin America, the sources said.
Meanwhile, East Asian consumption of reef fish like snapper is creating a new conservation crisis in the Asia Pacific region that was highlighted at a meeting in Bali, Indonesia, earlier in March.
Experts said fishing crews were using cyanide and explosives to increases their catches way beyond the ocean's capacity, reducing prospects for the renewable resource.
Experts saw the largest threat in the Coral Triangle, a marine region that includes the waters of six nations between the Indian and Pacific oceans -- Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, East Timor, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands -- and contains 37 percent of the world's reef fish species.