Cermaq to expand smolt production in Chilean south

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Cermaq in Chile plans to expand its local smolt production in the extreme south of the country, as the industry debates the use of wellboats for long-haul transports from the Puerto Montt area, writes SalmonExpert.cl.

The newspaper quoted the CEO of Cermaq, Geir Molvik, saying he favoured local smolt production saying long wellboat voyages through producing areas was “not a responsible practice” since “a single load of contaminated fish could destroy” the southern Magallanes area’s pristine character. A small Cermaq hatchery already in the Magallanes area hasn’t been enough to prevent the cost of trucking smolt or ova from the north, into Argentina and then back into Chile further south.

Not all agree that wellboats pose a risk, and a Plan Magallanes is reportedly being drawn up by fisheries agency, Sernapesca, to ensure north-south wellboat transfers have their own special set of rules designed to mitigate risk.

Salmon-grower Nova Austral, meanwhile, appears to be leading the way from the algae-prone north, making the pristine, Antarctic south as part of its brand appeal. Cermaq’s unheralded move suggests others might now be keen to follow the company on the southward, 1,500-kilometre trek from hatcheries in Region IX and X north of Puerto Montt to the virgin Region XII.

Meanwhile, recent export figures for Chile show Cermaq has become the country’s largest exporter of Salmon. Smolt production in the south appears aimed at securing that title and of turning the Magallanes into a “showcase for the entire Chilean salmon-farming industry” is Molvik’s reported aim.