Aquacultural exports

European investors eye Chilean oysters

As the French oyster industry is decimated by a herpes virus, entrepreneurs and investors look to Chile for solutions.  

Wednesday, May 02, 2012 Category: Business - Technology - Enviroment - Food
Fresh raw oysters are a premium food commodity around the world. (Photo by minwoo/Flickr) Fresh raw oysters are a premium food commodity around the world. (Photo by minwoo/Flickr)

For the fourth consecutive season, oyster growers along the length of the French coastline have been decimated by a disease that shows no sign of abating.


The variant Ostreid herpesvirus 1, or OsHV-1, runs rampant in Europe’s oyster industry, but for the French it has been particularly cataclysmic. According to Institut Francais de Recherche pour l’Exploitation de la Mer, somewhere between 70 to 80 percent of of that country’s young stock died this year.


But because the disease mainly strikes young oysters, which are left to grow for around three years before being harvested, its market effect has only just begun to be felt.


Seeking solutions to a problem that shows no signs of abating, a delegation of French industry representatives, investors and government officials traveled to Chile last week to meet with local producers and researchers in the aquaculture sector.


"In Europe, the oyster is being attacked by a virus that is enhanced by a vibrio bacteria, which gets sick and produces mortality of this species, a problem that has not been solved by Europeans," said Enrique Juan Illanes, academic and researcher at the Faculty of Marine Sciences of the Universidad Católica del Norte (UCN).


In contrast, Illanes explained, Chilean oysters are free of disease and the water is certified high quality and free of pollutants.  


"The French are in search of new opportunities, such as the interest in and the possibility of setting links, exchanging experiences and areas of cooperation with the university and the business sector," the academic said.


The latest French visit took place under the collaborative agreement between the General Council of Hérault and the Regional Government of Coquimbo signed in 2008, the year that French oysters first began to be affected by the disease.


The French delegates toured the facilities of the Central Laboratory of Crops and the Research Center and Technological Development in Algae (CIDTA) at UCN’s Guayacan Campus.

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