We are working with Chilean agencies to help the Chilean aquaculture industry improve its long term sustainability after a series of challenges over the past decade.

The challenge

Rebounding from environmental and economic crisis

Over the past decade the Chilean aquaculture industry has faced a number of hits to their productivity and their social license to operate.

Disease outbreaks, algal blooms and the need to comply with internationally accepted sustainability targets have seen industry experience boom and bust cycles, with dramatic impact on fish production, industry employment and the broader Chilean economy.

The Chilean aquaculture industry has approximately USD$3.5 billion in revenue each year, with salmon farming accounting for around 90% of this.

A Chilean salmon aquaculture farm

Climate change and other environmental drivers can also influence the industry.

2016’s occurrence of harmful algal blooms across the Patagonian coastline, which shut down local fishing industries, demonstrated the need to include key environmental and climate phenomena as part of the overall aquaculture management system.

Industry led changes and government regulations will lead to permanent changes in salmon aquaculture production in Chile, with farm producers searching for sustainable business models.

Our response

Understanding present and future needs

It is no longer efficient to consider only the sanitary risks of aquaculture in Chile. We are therefore working with the Chilean government and aquaculture industry to provide information and decision tools to support ‘triple bottom line’ production targets that limit economic, environmental and social impacts.

A project in collaboration with the Chilean government fisheries agency SERNAPESCA , the Under-secretariat of Fisheries (SUBPESCA ), the Chilean Fisheries Research Institute (IFOP ), and the Salmon Technology Institute (INTESAL ) has been developed to assist the transformation and recovery of the aquaculture sector through the implementation of a new ecosystem-based sanitary and environmental management system.

The quantitative and science-based management system is a leap forward from qualitative systems that are no longer sufficient for state-of-the-art industry decision making.

Before the implementation of new management systems CSIRO scientists gathered information on how salmon aquaculture can be environmentally sustainable and economically competitive. We reviewed data, information systems, and procedures, and analysed industry capability and infrastructure. This scoping work provided an understanding of industry strengths and gaps and what was needed to make improvements in the industry.

The results

Developing a fully-integrated aquaculture decision-making tool

The key findings from information gathering found that the following is required to ensure the long-term sustainability and economic viability of Chilean aquaculture industries:

  • Aquaculture productions targets based on a triple bottom line definition of carrying capacity
  • Science-based management framework tailored to local and regional contexts
  • Research and development addressing all aspects of the production cycle including ecological, economic and social dimensions
  • Re-establishment of trust between industry and communities

The best way of meeting the current and future management and assessment needs of the Chilean aquaculture industry is the development of a fully-integrated information system in addition to training and capability-building.

The information system, ‘Sima-Austral’ (Sistema Integrado de Manejo para la Acuícultura-Austral) will include web-based interfaces allowing analysis, reporting and visualisation of combined sanitary, environmental and production information related to Chilean aquaculture industries.

The tool will be scalable from farm to regional levels and be used in operational contexts, as well as in scenarios for planning, and in forecasting of environmental conditions or disease spread.

The tool will draw on capabilities in CSIRO and Chilean agencies, and be a platform for building national capabilities in environmental monitoring and modelling, data management and visualisation and environmental risk-assessment.

Farmed salmon pens in Chile  © Sam Beebe CC BY 2.0

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