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Salmon Virus to Haunt Chile in Year Ahead

CHILE - Chilean salmon farms face a daunting year ahead as a devastating disease spreads out of control and government funding is cut.

“It’s the hardest crisis they’ve confronted,” Felix Inostroza, Chile’s national fishing director, said in a recent interview with Bloomberg. “Everything happened at once.”

According to Bloomberg, Chile, the world’s second-biggest salmon producer, may cut output more than 30 per cent this year because of Infectious Salmon Anemia. German Serrano, an analyst at BanChile Inversiones in Santiago, said that the virus caused third-quarter losses at Oslo-based Marine Harvest ASA, the world’s largest salmon farmer, and Puerto Montt, Chile-based Multiexport Foods SA.

Outbreaks of the disease, which began afflicting fish in southern Chile in 2007, are intensifying in northern Aysen, the country’s second-largest production zone, Inostroza said. Warmer weather during the Southern Hemisphere’s summer helps the virus spread, he said.

Salmon anemia has crippled production in an industry that more than tripled exports over a decade to $2.2 billion in 2007 as companies crowded the fjords of southern Chile with salmon cages. The virus, which doesn’t affect humans, kills some salmon and weakens others, making the fish more vulnerable to other diseases.

Revenue also is falling as a recession cuts demand in the U.S., Chile’s second-largest market for the fish after Japan, Serrano told Bloomberg.

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