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Icicle Seafoods poised to start fish farming in Chile

CANADA - In March, Icicle Seafoods Inc. made an announcement that shocked some people: It was jumping into the farmed salmon and trout business in Chile - writes Wesley Loy, Anchorage Daily News

"Boycott Icicle!" one guy wrote on an industry blog.

"A major slap in the face," wrote another, identifying himself as a former Alaska commercial fisherman.

Don Giles, Icicle's longtime president, expected some flak. But he also believes a less vocal majority understands why one of the largest processors of Alaska's wild salmon had to get into fish farming.

Icicle, now headquartered in Seattle, began in 1965 in Petersburg when some local fishermen bought a local cannery. Today, the company has annual revenue of about $300 million and peak seasonal employment of 2,000 people.

Icicle is hardly alone in getting involved with farmed fish. Its rivals Ocean Beauty, Trident and other Alaska wild salmon processors also are handling farmed product, if not outright growing it.

Fish farming is illegal in Alaska, and the state's commercial fishermen and politicians remain hardened against it even as aquaculture has become a boom industry in Chile, Norway, Canada and some Lower 48 states.

Salmon farming began to explode in the early 1990s, and today production greatly exceeds the millions of Alaska salmon caught in the wild with nets and hooks. One result of all this new salmon has been generally lower prices for Alaska fishermen and processors. The impact has been so severe, in fact, that hundreds of fishermen and several processors have parked their boats or shut down their plants.

On March 7, Icicle announced it had formed a new venture called Salmones Aysen, based in Santiago, to farm-raise salmon and trout in southern Chile's Aysen region. Icicle's partner in the venture is a farming veteran, Pablo Baraona, formerly of aquaculture company Salmones Tecmar, now part of giant Marine Harvest.

Giles, 52, talked about the Chilean venture, the evolving salmon world and Icicle's outlook for Alaska...

Source: Anchorage Daily News

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