Background

The “Programme for Health Management in Aquaculture” in Chile addresses the knowledge gaps currently present in the development of diseases, generating knowledge of
the public good in the areas of greatest impact. Based on this scientific basis, this programme aims to contribute to official health management and the transfer of information base for technology, solutions and policy recommendations to maintain sustainability and thus improve the productivity of national aquaculture

Worldwide aquaculture shows an impressive growth in the supply of various marine species for human consumption, unlike, for example, the capture of wild fish that has experienced a stabilization in its levels of capture since the late eighties.
Thus, in 2014, a milestone was reached when the contribution of the aquaculture sector to the supply of fish for human consumption exceeded that of fish caught in its natural environment for the first time (FAO, 2016).

In Chile, this activity is relevant to the national economy and its development is mainly based on the production of three salmonid species: Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar), rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) and coho salmon (O. kisutch) (SUBPESCA, 2015). Salmon farming is, within non –mining exports, the third economic activity of the country (National Customs Service, 2015) and the first in the southern zone (SalmonChile, 2016). This is how during 2015, the returns from Chilean exports reached 3,527 million USD FOB, which corresponded to more than 590 thousand tons of shipments (SUBPESCA, 2015; SalmonChile, 2016)

Today, this item represents 6% of the country’s exports, 84% of exports of sea products and 36% of food exports. In addition, it generates more than 71,000 small and medium-sized companies created around this productive activity (SalmonChile, 2016).

The development of salmon farming has been due to the numerous comparative advantages that Chile has for this type of aquaculture.

However, since the beginning of this activity, its growth has been accompanied by the occurrence of different diseases, Piscirickettsia salmonis (SRS) and Caligus rogercresseyi currently having the greatest impact on the health status of fish (Ibieta et al., 2011; Bravo, 2012), since the cost associated with the management and control of these diseases is very high.

The development of salmon farming has been due to the numerous comparative advantages that Chile has for this type of aquaculture.

However, since the beginning of this activity, its growth has been accompanied by the occurrence of different diseases, Piscirickettsia salmonis (SRS) and Caligus rogercresseyi currently having the greatest impact on the health status of fish (Ibieta et al., 2011; Bravo, 2012), since the cost associated with the management and control of these diseases is very high.

Both diseases are difficult to control in Chile, since the farming centers share marine environments, so the contagion risk between them is high, and on the other hand, there are still important knowledge and technology gaps that limit the capacity in managing salmon farming from the principle of sustainability (Hamza et al., 2014).

In response to the above, the National Fisheries and Aquaculture Service (Servicio Nacional de Pesca-Sernapesca) was awarded financing by the Strategic Investment Fund (Fondo de Inversión Estratégica-FIE), of the Ministry of Economy, for the execution of the programme called “Programme for Health Management in Aquaculture”, which also has funding and collaboration from the Chilean Salmon Industry Association AG (Asociación de la Industria del Salmón de Chile A.G.).

This programme seeks to boost and improve research, innovation and development of strategic knowledge through a multidisciplinary approach, in order to address the gaps present, currently, in the investigation of existing diseases in Chilean aquacultute, mainly Piscirickettsia salmonis and Caligus rogercresseyi. At the same time, it aims to generate public knowledge, in order to contribute to official health management and the transfer of base information for technology, solutions and policy recommendations to maintain sustainability and improve the productivity of the salmon and aquaculture industry in general.

The “Programme for Health Management in Aquaculture” will execute strategic research projects, with national and foreign institutions of excellence, with emphasis on the scientific quality control and will promote the creation of specialized human capital in Chile for those purposes.