SANTIAGO – The algal bloom that plagued numerous salmon farms in southern Chile in recent weeks has caused the loss of 12 percent of this year’s projected harvest, or the equivalent of about 106,000 tons of fish, the SalmonChile trade association said.
The onslaught “has ended” after the process of removing fish killed by the algae was completed, SalmonChile said in a statement.
The algal proliferation is caused by higher-than-normal temperatures in the Pacific Ocean as a result of the El Niño weather phenomenon. Blooming microalgae embed themselves in the gills of the salmon, gradually causing death by asphyxiation.
A single drop of water can hold up to 25 of the algae and salmon raised in enclosures cannot escape the algae like free-range salmon can.
The industry “exhausted all human, economic and logistical resources in dealing with this crisis,” SalmonChile said.
The trade group said consumers could expect “shortages” for a few months, especially during the second half of this year, but indicated that the supply would not be interrupted since the bloom “was contained” in the affected area.
Unions representing employees at salmon-processing plants blame the algal bloom for the loss of some 10,000 jobs.
Chile is the world’s second-largest producer of salmon after Norway.