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Industry hiding the hazards of intensive salmon production, say purists

PUERTO VARAS - A two day workshop on Infectious Salmon Anaemia has been criticised by campaigners because of its 'closed-shop' policy, writes Jane Jordan, The FishSite Editor.

SalmonChile, an industry trade association, and Sernapesca, the Chilean national fisheries service, held the two-day workshop on ISA because the disease is gaining a stronghold on South America's expanding fish farming sector.
An outbreak in Chile during the summer forced Sernapesca to conduct an emergency harvest and slaughter more than one million infected farmed salmon.

ISA has caused huge losses to productivity in the Chilean industry and many investors have culled fish in a bid to control the disease and curb their losses.

However, campaigners say plummeting margins are just the tip of the iceberg as the methods used to produce farmed salmon are posing massive biosecurity and environmental risks. They are calling for the salmon industry to come clean and acknowledge its responsibilities.

Campaigners believe the industry is closing ranks in a bid to hide the truth. They say that environmental organisations were barred from attending the workshop or gaining access to key information.

Groups such as Pure Salmon say that the ISA epidemic that has devastated several Chilean salmon farms during the summer is not an isolated or minor issue.

"Despite what the industry and government would have you believe, Chilean salmon farming is riddled with problems," said Cristian Perez, Chilean representative, Pure Salmon Campaign. "Escapes, labour issues, sea lice, worker deaths and now Infectious Salmon Anemia are detrimentally impacting the marine environment, local communities and the economy. Moving salmon farms out of the disease-infected and sea lice infested areas and into pristine areas is not a solution - it is just moving the problem elsewhere," he added.

ISA and the sea lice crisis are symptomatic of the wider problems with the Chilean salmon farming industry. Those problems include over-production, lack of regulation, lack of separation between government and industry, lack of transparency/information and precedence of economic interests over environmental and social concerns.

"The Chilean government is aiding and abetting the closed door policy of its salmon industry by refusing to provide access to information," said Andrea Kavanagh, director of the Pure Salmon Campaign. "This blind eye toward environmental mismanagement and the refusal of the Chilean government to take action against the industry will continue to hurt all those connected to this industry from consumers to investors in these companies. It is not just the industry that should be ashamed in this situation, but the government as well, for failing to do its job in regulating this industry," he added.

Further Reading

- For more information on ISA click here.