In November, Chilean fishery authorities presented a package of measures that aim to better handle massive fish die-offs should algal blooms like those experienced last summer in the Los Lagos region strike again.
Last February-March a contagion of toxic micro-algae decimated 40,000 metric tons of salmon, causing a loss of $500-600 million for Chilean producers.
Chilean exports in the first ten months of 2016 totaled 409,372 metric tons, 11% less year-on-year.
The toxic algae blooms earlier this year were unprecedented both in their magnitude and density.
Chilean salmon producers are getting ready to react to future blooms more quickly, as the risk that increasing temperatures could make the toxic algae proliferate again is strong.
However, there are no definitive solutions to contain a bloom as powerful as those that affected Chile in 2016.
The industry is implementing monitoring systems to forecast toxic proliferation, based on remote systems, satellite information and good dynamic models.
Firms are also currently testing and implementing a series of mitigation measures to contain the impact of new blooms.
Those measures include the creation of logistical emergency plans, new sea cage designs, aeration and oxygenation and airlift systems, which move the water and create micro-bubbles to lower concentration of algae.
The package of new measures was presented by officials from the Chile’s national fisheries and aquaculture service (Sernapesca), its environment superintendent, the ministry of fisheries and aquaculture and the Chilean navy.
The measures established the obligation for each farm to have an action plan for management, retirement and final disposal of massive mortalities, the national director of Sernapesca, Jose Miguel Burgos, said.
Chilean farms will need to report to both the ministry and Sernapesca within 24 hours any mortality event exceeding 15 metric tons. Generally, 15t is the average capacity that farms have for mortality management.
Farms will also have to coordinate actions to withdraw mortalities in a maximum period of four days.
The plan indicates the first responsibility for each farm. As a second step, there is a new task force to coordinate the industry’s logistical needs in an emergency and avoid the events taken place earlier this year, Burgos said.
When the algae blooms took place, there weren’t sufficient vessels to carry away mortalities, industry sources told Undercurrent News.
Violation of those rules will be punished by high fines, Chile’s environment superintendent, Cristian Franz, said.
“The sanctioning framework established in our new environmental regulations in Chile has very high fines for violators and recidivism can translate into revocation of permits,” Franz said.
Franz also called project owners to be very responsible with their operations and ensure that are perfectly prepared to face an emergency like the one already experienced.
“We are concerned that the vessels carrying fish mortalities are adequate and that the tasks of loading, transportation, tenure, permanence and discharges to other ships are very safe,” Puerto Montt maritime governor, captain Pedro Valderrama, said.
Matilde Mereghetti / undercurrentnews.com