The accelerated proliferation of harmful algae in the regions of Los Lagos and Aysén, called algae bloom, has the salmon industry in our country in check, from where they report the death of almost 3,000 tons of fish in recent weeks, those that will be transferred to Talcahuano, mainly, for processing.
Salmones Camanchaca, one of the main salmon farms in Chile, reported on April 5 before the Financial Market Commission (CMF) the death of 1.3 million salmon, equivalent to 2,250 tons of biomass, that is, 11% of the fish that the subsidiary maintains.
At the national level, according to the National Fisheries Service (Sernapesca) a THE DYNAMO, until April 5, the estimated mortality and due to the current phenomenon called Harmful Algal Blooms (HAB) was 2,900 tons of fish, mainly from the Los Lagos and Aysén regions.
Because most of the dead fish are from fjords used by Camanchaca, Sernapesca authorized the company to transfer these salmon from Hornopirén (Los Lagos Region) to the Landes fish processing plant in Talcahuano (Biobío Region), despite to the existence of other companies dedicated to the same tasks in the region of origin.
According to the service, the movement is taking place in an offshore fishing vessel called Duqueco patent CB-5274. The vessel is carrying 1,200 tons of dead salmon and will arrive in Talcahuano in the next few days. In addition, another 103 tons are mobilized from the Los Lagos Region also to the Landes plant in containers transported by trucks.
The idea, as reported by Sernapesca, is to move the 1,303 tons of dead salmon from Camanchaca to the reduction plant in Talcahuano to “Use this raw material in fishmeal and oils”.
From the Terram environmental foundation they explained to THE DYNAMO that the transfer of the specimens killed by the algal bloom is necessary because “it can affect the local ecosystem” if mortality is maintained in the area. However, they warned that the transfer of decomposing cargo for almost 600 kilometers carries a health risk.
As explained by the executive director of Terram and a biologist from the Catholic University, Flavia Liberona, “the high mortality of fish must be removed, but when doing so, it spreads to other places.”
“The shipment leaves biological contamination throughout its journey. In addition, here we are facing an emergency, where probably not all the necessary biosecurity measures are being considered for this type of case, “added the environmentalist.
The unfortunate experience of the Seikongen
It was in October 2017 when the Seikongen boat, owned by the company CPT Empresas Marítimas SA, was transported near Chonchi Island in Chiloé, where 214 tons of live fish from Salmones Camanchaca were transported, the same company that now seeks to move the salmon affected by the current algal bloom to Talcahuano.
As a result of the ship’s grounding, the specimens were trapped in a warehouse in Seikongen for almost a year until in 2018, after the allegation of the Talcahuano communities where it was planned to transfer the dead fish, the Environmental Committee made up of the Ministry of the Environment Environment, the National Fisheries and Aquaculture Service and naval authorities, determined that the tons had to be taken to the Ecoprial industrial waste plant, located in the Curaco area in Osorno and not in the Biobío Region.
In this regard, the former mayor of the Los Lagos Region, Harry Jürgensen, explained at that time to the media that Ecoprial, unlike the Landes plant, was audited by the Superintendency of the Environment and it was determined that it complied “with all the corresponding regulations, otherwise it would not be an option for us ”.
The danger, as explained by Flavia Liberona de Terram, is that decomposition of fish “generates toxic gases”, which can produce “a risk to the health of workers linked to the process” if they are kept in storage for a long time, as happened between 2017 and 2018 in Seikongen.
From Sernapesca, meanwhile, they affirmed that they authorized the current transfer of the cargo from Hornopirén to Talcahuano because when mortality events as massive as the current one occur, “the timely removal of the fish is key,” which did not happen in the case. from Seikongen, where the cargo completely decomposed and the concentration of toxic gases was dangerous for the environment and human health.
The authority highlighted that the transfer of the 1,303 tons of dead salmon to Talcahuano is carried out “within the framework of what is established in the Aquaculture Environmental Regulation, being the company responsible for compliance with regulations corresponding sector ”.
THE DYNAMO Salmones Camanchaca was contacted to obtain an answer on the reasons for the transfer to Talcahuano.
The company specified that they are acting “in accordance with the protocols defined by the authority for this type of contingency, which they consider much more effective measures than those that existed in 2016, when there was a massive bloom of harmful algae.”
In addition, they stressed that the experience of the last irregular algae blooming allowed them to “currently have the use of ships with a much greater capacity to remove fish kills, and deliver them to suppliers for their correct disposal in reducing plants, which make them a useful product. Vessels from the industrial fishing fleet have been converted, which have given good results ”.
Regarding why they want to process the dead salmon in Talcahuano and not in plants near the place where the specimens died, Salmones Camanchaca explained that the Landes plant is “Specialist in processing industrial fishing”.
“Today it has specialized in this mortality of salmon, and it has a large storage and production capacity, capable of processing about 800 tons per day, under high standards of efficiency and safety (…) the loading from the centers occurs on ships high seas fishing vessels, which have refrigeration systems capable of keeping them in good condition, without risks to the environment, and which are transported to the reduction plant in Talcahuano ”, they stressed.