Frozen milt in the in-house cryopreservation laboratory in Ensenada.
Frozen milt in the in-house cryopreservation laboratory in Ensenada.

Salmon ova producer joins exclusive club

Benchmarks Genetics Chile is only the fifth in the world to achieve disease-free certification, and is now looking to export its eggs

Published Last updated

Aquaculture biotechnology company Benchmark Holdings has announced that it can now export salmon ova from Chile after its breeding operations there achieved Disease-Free Compartment Certification.

The company’s facilities at Ensenada and Curacalco have been certified by the government’s fisheries and aquaculture service, Sernapesca.

Previously, there have only been four certified salmonid compartments in the world: two in Canada, one in Iceland (also belonging to Benchmark Genetics) and one in Chile (AquaChile).

Benchmark said the Disease-Free Compartment Certification defined by the World Organisation for Animal Health, WOAH, is only given to aquaculture farms that can demonstrate an active surveillance system, with strict biosecurity measures enforced where the animals are free of certain listed diseases. The farms must have firm management practices to keep the animals healthy and safe from diseases to get the certification.

Jan-Emil Johannessen, head of Benchmark Genetics, said: “This certification is very relevant as we now have the same health and biosecurity standards in Chile as in Iceland.

Benchmark' Chile's facility at Curacalco is one of two certified by Sernapesca.
Benchmark' Chile's facility at Curacalco is one of two certified by Sernapesca.

“Biosecure operations are an important differentiation factor for Benchmark and reduce the risk related to egg supply for our customers. Additionally, our Chilean production can now be considered a source of biosecure eggs for salmon farmers worldwide.”

María Soledad Tapia, national director for Sernapesca, said: “Compartmentalisation, in very simple words, means that fish farms take extraordinary biosecurity measures to grow disease-free fish. This sounds so simple, but in practice, it is not. A large epidemiological surveillance program is required to ensure that there are no pathogens. It is a high standard, and as a government, we aim precisely to raise all standards, with an important focus on the operation of the aquaculture industry.”

Benchmark Genetics also produces salmon ova in Norway, but these are for the domestic market.

Ova exports from Norway have been banned since 2019 due to a disagreement between the European Union and Matilisynet (the Norwegian food safety authority) regarding the certification of so-called disease-free compartments in Norway.

Although there was no actual clinical disease detected, the surveillance and monitoring procedures to demonstrate that the areas where broodstock were farmed were free of disease were not considered adequate by EU food safety watchdogs.

In Scotland, the ban is one of the reasons why large volume producers such as Mowi and Scottish Sea Farms have begun the process of producing their own salmon ova instead of relying on imports. The move also enables them to breed fish most suited to Scottish sea conditions.