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New Brunswick farmed salmon industry had survived an ISA viral outbreak that reigned from 1996 to 2006. (Photo: DFO/Stock File)

New Brunswick to help Chile beat disease

Click on the flag for more information about Canada CANADA
Friday, December 12, 2008, 01:10 (GMT + 9)

A representative from the Chilean salmon farming industry is paying a visit to New Brunswick to learn how to get rid of a disease that is wreaking havoc with Chile's salmon sector.

Chile has been struggling with infection salmon anemia (ISA), a disease New Brunswick's salmon industry fought from 1996 to 2006.

Joel Leal, a technology consultant with the Chilean Salmon Farming Industry Association (SalmonChile), came to Canada to learn about biosecurity and breeding practices used in New Brunswick.

He is touring research centers with government officials and Cooke Aquaculture staff, reports the Telegraph-Journal.

The disease has affected Chile's industry since July 2007, when it was first detected at a Marine Harvest facility. At that time more than one million fish had to be killed.

Since then, the disease has spread to a high number of salmon farms in Chile.

"There is a very high impact in the areas of the companies," Leal said. "There are a lot of sites that are closed and some people are losing their jobs. Some processing plants are closed."

The effects of ISA will probably push Chile down from the number one salmon producer in the world to number two, behind Norway, said Jamey Smith, executive director of the New Brunswick Salmon Growers Association.

The disease affects about 30 per cent of Chilean farmed salmon, said Alan Cook, manager of Salmones Cupquelan, Cooke Aquaculture's recently acquired Chilean subsidiary.

"Some farmers will be down 50 per cent (next year)," Cook predicted. "The Chileans are in the middle of a crisis. The fish are dying like crazy."

Salmones Cupquelan is so far free of infection, but Cook said he doubts it can stay that way.

Leal suspects that ISA entered Chile through imported roe that make up about 20 per cent of the roe used in salmon farming.

"We are visiting the facilities looking for the health situation, the screening for diseases and our goal is to know in detail the risk we'll be presenting with those eggs to the Chilean industry," Leal said.

He also said there were production problems in Chile that contributed to the spread of the disease.

Salmones Cupquelan has cut stock by 20 per cent to take pressure off the fish, and added hand and boot-washing stations and mandatory disinfection of tools.

Leal is also learning about New Brunswick's bay management area model, which is easier on both the fish and the ecosystem.

However, if Chile's experience with ISA is like Canada's, it will take a long time to fix the problem, said Smith.

"Over that 10 years it was a significant health issue for us," he said.

Related articles:

- Govt outlines aid package for salmon industry
- Tougher production codes to conquer ISA: industry
Minimising ISA, a challenge for Cermaq
Three firms suffer USD 60 mln blow from ISA

By E. Fiske


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