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Escape ‘highly probable’ as currents wreck Chilean farm

The cage module was badly damaged, but it is not yet known how many fish may have escaped. Photo: Sernapesca.
The cage module was badly damaged, but it is not yet known how many fish may have escaped. Photo: Sernapesca.

Chilean aquaculture authority Sernapesca in investigating a “highly probable” escape of fish at a Salmones Camanchaca farm in which a cage pontoon was badly damaged by bad weather.

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The 12-cage module at the Punta Islotes site contained 850,000 Atlantic salmon and was badly distorted by strong currents from rivers swollen by heavy rain.

Sernapesca director Alicia Gallardo said: “It is highly probable that there has been an escape of salmon. The amount of fish is not clear to us.”

This would be verified today, as until yesterday water turbidity predominated, and working with remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) was complex.  

Manuel Arriagada:
Manuel Arriagada: "The affected module is only one - half of it."

2.5 kilo fish

Manuel Arriagada, general manager of Salmones Camanchaca, told Fish Farming Expert’s Chilean sister site, Salmonexpert.cl, that the Punta Islotes site has two modules of 12 cages which each measure 40 x 40 metres. 

“The affected module is only one - half of it - and it has 850,000 fish with an average weight of 2.5 kilos. In other words, the maximum risk implies 25% of the complete farming centre. Until now, there have been no salmon leaks or mortalities.”

Arriagada added: “The tasks associated with the event are aimed at reinforcing the anchorages of both modules, and moving fish to the unaffected module, and then replacing the affected module with a new one and returning the salmon to their original location, in the same Punta Islotes site. 

“The contingency plans were properly activated and there is biomass, structures and loss mitigation insurance.”

Officials from Sernapesca and the Navy joined inspect the cages. Photo: Directemar.
Officials from Sernapesca and the Navy joined inspect the cages. Photo: Directemar.
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