After a sanitation scare nearly wiped out the lucrative salmon industry in southern Chile in 2009, the fish industry cleaned up its act. Transnational fish farmers and local businesses alike pledged to follow much stricter sanitation regulations – the strictest in the world, according to experts – to protect the salmon industry and the environmental conditions of the Patagonian fjords and bays where the salmon is raised.
Today, fisheries are harvesting salmon with an average weight of 11.2 lb (5.1 kg) – compared to just 5.5 lb (2.5 kg) a few years ago – and mortality rates are approaching zero. “The productivity has improved quite a lot,” said the local salmon industry. “Fish are healthier and there is less mortality, which means greater harvests.”
2012: Auspicious year for salmon
This means good news for the regional economies of Puerto Montt and Aysén, where an estimated 30,000 people are employed directly and indirectly by the salmon industry. Exports are expected to reach 457,000 tons in 2012, an 18 percent increase from 2011. Indeed, 2012 promises to be the year that the Chilean salmon and trout industry makes its official comeback from the ISA virus in 2009, surpassing 2008’s record exports of 445,000 tons.
The leading exporter last year, Norwegian-operated Mainstream Chile, sent US$247 million worth of Chilean salmon abroad in 2011. Chilean José Ramón Gutiérrez, owner of Salmon Multiexport, followed with exports around US$220 million, and Chile’s Los Fiordos rounded out the top three with US$194.4 million.
The salmon industry cautioned against predicting the value of exports in 2012, despite the projected increase in volume. “It’s difficult to know how much the exports will be worth, because of fluctuations in the price of the dollar and fluctuations in the price of salmon and trout on the international market,” an industry source told local business journal, Pulso.