Within several decades of development, Chile became the second-largest producer of farmed salmon in the world. However, a severe outbreak of infectious salmon anemia (ISA) in 2007 heavily impacted production and caused secondary impacts on employment, social welfare and international market presence.
In 2011, as Chile’s salmon continued to recover, the Responsible Aquaculture Foundation worked with the Subsecretariat of Fisheries and SalmonChile, Chile’s salmon industry association, on a case study of the ISA crisis. Adolfo Alvial of Adolfo Alvial Consultancies coordinated the team of experts who analyzed the evolution of ISA and evaluated the recovery process from various perspectives.
They found the fast growth of the industry led to concentrated siting of farms, high stocking densities and poor farm practices. With limited regulatory and sanitary controls, this created an environment in which ISA took hold and rapidly expanded.
In response, a coordinated public-private effort ensured that basic infectious disease control measures were implemented and enforced. In parallel, longer-term efforts involving the government, the industry and the financial sector allowed companies to continue operating while new laws laid the foundations for industry renewal.
A major lesson learned in Chile was that aquaculture depends on the capacity of biological systems to support it. Defining the carrying capacities of bodies of water is essential. Also, when bodies of water are shared, all parties involved must be good stewards of the environment. As aquaculture grows in an area, it is critical to have a system that ensures sound industry practices, and early detection and rapid control of problems if they occur.