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Calm after the storm: 680,000 fish, with an average weight of 3.4kg, escaped from the farm due to severe weather. Photo: Marine Harvest
Calm after the storm: 680,000 fish, with an average weight of 3.4kg, escaped from the farm due to severe weather. Photo: Marine Harvest

The number of fish that escaped from a Marine Harvest farm site in Chile after storms wrecked cages last week has been calculated at 680,000.

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Another 250,000 salmon remaining at the Punta Redonda farm, located near Isla Huar, about 20km south of Puerto Montt, have been transferred to a nearby site.

“The meteorological event was presented with unusual violence, with high waves and strong winds and was lashing the [farming] centre for several days before personnel and services could enter to try to stabilise the system,” Marine Harvest reported. 

“The centre was anchored in mid-2017, with cages of recent construction (2017) and are designed for exposed conditions. Fortunately, no member of our staff was injured.”

Not to be eaten

A plan has been implemented to recapture the escaped salmon. Marine Harvest contacted artisanal fishermen from Calbuco, Isla Huar and Puerto Montt, who have been collaborating in the recovery of the salmon escaped with the company. 

On the first day of operation of the plan, around 8,500 fish had been caught.

Some of the fish has been recently treated with antibiotics and fisherman have been warned not to eat them, as the fish still have residues of the drug in their systems.

“The fish that escaped from Punta Redonda Centre do not meet the standards of traceability and animal safety required, so without the required health certificate consumption is not recommended,” said Marine Harvest.

Cages destroyed

Eduardo Aguilera, regional director of the National Fisheries and Aquaculture Service (Sernapesca), said Marine Harvest informed the organisation about the escape on Thursday.

He said: “A module of five cages was completely destroyed and the second module, specifically four cages, was seriously damaged.”

Marine Harvest said it was investigating the cage failure along with the relevant authorities and the suppliers, and that all farms would be inspected as soon as possible.

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