Algal bloom plaguing Chilean salmon begins receding: government

Salmon carcasses are seen on a cleaning line at the Acuinova Chile salmonera company located some 1,625 km south of Santiago in this March 5, 2009, file photo. REUTERS/Victor Ruiz Caballero/Files

SANTIAGO (Reuters) - An algal bloom in Chile that has killed up to 20 percent of the country’s farmed salmon, causing higher prices globally, has started to recede along with fish deaths, the government said on Friday.

“What the scientists have told us is that the algae has diminished, and what we also have detected is that fish deaths have ceased,” said Jose Miguel Burgos, head of the government’s fisheries body.

“Today we hope that we are within view of this declining and definitively ending.”

Chile is the world’s second largest producer of salmon and trout after Norway. The government has said that salmon farmers have had production losses of around 100,000 tonnes, worth about $800,000 million.

Abnormally warm weather and a lack of rain, partially due to the El Niño weather phenomenon, have been identified as contributing factors.

Late summer rains have begun in southern Chile, cooling ocean temperatures and reducing the bloom.

The decline in Chilean salmon has caused prices to rise, as reflected in an increase of 25 percent to $5 per pound last week in Miami, a reference market for the industry.

Shares in a number of salmon producers operating in Chile have risen in tandem with prices over the past two of weeks.

Chilean companies AquaChile, Blumar, Camanchaca, Australis Seafoods, Multiexport Foods, Invermar, and the local unit of Norway’s Marine Harvest have Chilean salmon farming operations.

Reporting by Antonio de la Jara; Writing by Gram Slattery; Editing by Toni Reinhold