Virus Outbreak in Chilean Salmon Farm Illustrates Vulnerability of Open Systems

May 24, 2008

Chile salmon farm

A virus known as infectious salmon anemia (ISA) has killed millions of farmed salmon in Chile causing widespread impacts through Chile’s third largest export industry. Chile exports its salmon to the U.S., Europe and Japan. The virus has resulted in the loss of thousands of jobs and serious economic impacts to local communities.

The incident has drawn renewed criticism of the practice of breeding salmon in crowded nearshore net pens, a practice that causes pollution impacts to coastal waters while leaving fish vulnerable to disease outbreak.

To combat disease outbreaks, Chilean fish farmers use a range of antibiotics, some of which are prohibited for animal use in the U.S.

The incident has caused Chile to consider a move to land-based closed-containment systems which do not require the use of chemical or antibiotics and, as quarantined systems, do not leave their fish stocks vulnerable to disease or other contamination.

More on the Chilean salmon disease outbreak is available from the New York Times.