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Chile Investigates Mass Escape of Diseased Salmon

CHILE - Chiles State Defense Council (CDE) is launching an investigation into last months large-scale salmon and trout escape in Region X, the daily La Tercera reported this week.

The CDE – the government prosecutor’s office – is soliciting information from Puerto Montt maritime authorities and from the National Fishing Service (SERNAPESCA) to determine the extent of environmental damage caused by the incident, reported Patagonia Times yesterday. The news item revealed that depending on the results, the CDE could file law suits.

In late December, bad weather allowed thousands of trout and salmon to escape from several Region X fish farms. SERNAPESCA reported that in total nearly 730,000 fish escaped. According to Patagonia Times, Aguas Claras lost some 668,000 trout from farms in Isla Queullín and Ensenada Quetén. Nearly 60,000 salmon escaped from a Mainstream-owned facility near Calbuco. And approximately 2,000 salmon swam off from a Trusal-owned farm in Bahía Lenca.

According to reports from the Patagonia Times, the Trusal facility, SERNAPESCA later confirmed, was experiencing an outbreak of Infectious Salmon Anemia (ISA) at the time of the escape. A highly contagious virus, ISA can be lethal to fish but does not affect humans. ISA first appeared in Chilean waters in mid 2007. Since then the disease has spread throughout the country’s salmon farming regions (X, XI and XII) and triggered a major downturn for the once booming aquaculture industry.

The incident attracted heavy criticism from environmental groups and small-scale fisher organizations that have long warned of problems associated with escaped salmon and trout. The carnivorous – and introduced – species prey on native fish and thus are a major stress on the environment, insist groups such as Oceana, an international NGO. They can also spread disease to naturally occurring stock.

“Salmon escapes are one of the most critical issues related to salmon farming,” said Oceana head Alex Muñoz. “Since salmon are introduced species, their escape into the wild results in severe impacts on local marine ecosystems and other fish species.”

Further Reading

- Go to our previous news item on this story by clicking here.
- For more information, read TheFishSite feature: The Global Spread of Infectious Salmon Anaemia, by clicking here.

the Fish Site Editor

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