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Marine Harvest Will Double Its Smolts Seeding

Salmonids Breeding & genetics +1 more

CHILE - Chiles salmon industry - devastated by the Infectious Salmon Anemia disease (ISA) -is finally starting to recover, says Norwegian-owned Marine Harvest Chile General Manager Alvaro Jimnez.

Marine Harvest, the world’s largest producer of farmed salmon, expects to increase young salmon released for maturation to 6.5 million in 2010, more than double the 2009 number, reports The Santiago Times.

Mr Jiménez says the increased smolt (salmon at the stage where they move from fresh to salt water) production reflects the company’s confidence that slowing salmon mortality rates mean the crisis is finally coming to an end.

Mr Jiménez says the criticism that the decrease in mortality is simply the result of decreased production is an “absolute simplification,” citing changes within the industry and the National Fisheries Service that have improved farming conditions.

Even with the increase Marine Harvest is still far from reaching pre-ISA numbers when the company was seeding ocean pens with some 40 million smolts each year. Salmon exports totaled US$116 million for the company in 2009, nearly 50 per cent less than the previous year.

The company’s decrease tracks the wider industry trend. Before the ISA crisis some 170 million smolts were introduced yearly, dropping to 30 million in 2009. In 2010 that number is expected to increase to 50 million.

Still, trade association SalmonChile predicts 2010 will be the worst year for salmon production since ISA broke out in 2007 and devastated the salmon industry in Chile. The expected yield is roughly half the quantity produced in 2008.

Although ISA does not infect humans, the outbreak caused thousands of job losses in Chile’s salmon farming. Marine Harvest cut more than 60 per cent of its work force in Chile since the start of the crisis.

Smolt goes into the ocean pens weighing a little more than five ounces and grow to nearly ten pounds in just over one year’s time. The current increase will impact the 2011 harvest.

Mr Jiménez said he expects Marine Harvest to steadily increase production, bringing the company to 75 per cent of pre-ISA production within five years. Still, that will require further investments in infrastructure which the company will not undertake until 2011, when it expects to confirm the ISA crisis is under control.