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Chile Fights Back for Lucrative Salmon Industry

CHILE - When a devastating virus swept through Chiles farmed salmon stocks last year, some of the industrys biggest players laid off thousands of workers, packed up operations and moved to unspoiled waters farther south along the Chilean coast. But the virus went with them.

Last month, the Chilean government began hashing out tougher measures to improve the sanitary and environmental conditions of the troubled industry, reports The New York Times. But producers expect still deeper losses this year, as the virus continues to kill millions of fish slated for export to the United States and other countries.

According to The New York Times, government and industry officials say they have already taken important steps to improve the ways salmon are farmed. But the persistent problems, critics say, reveal that neither the industry nor the government has fully grasped the need for the far-reaching changes required to protect not only consumers and the environment, but also one of Chile’s most important industries from itself.

The troubles spurred the Chilean government to step up its controls. Last year Sernapesca, Chile’s national fishing service, tripled its inspections of farmed fish, said Felix Inostroza, the agency’s director.

Among other things, the measures now being weighed by the Chilean Congress, which are expected to be passed before April, would thin the density of salmon pens, where overcrowding has contributed to the virus’s spread, and reduce the use of antibiotics.

The authorities also plan to organize aquaculture permits into “neighborhoods,” where salmon companies will be required build in rest periods between production cycles, to give the marine environment time to recover, said Rodrigo Infante, general manager of SalmonChile, the industry association.

the Fish Site Editor

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