SANTIAGO – Norway-based Marine Harvest, the largest salmon producer in the world, announced Monday that it will lay off 500 employees in Chile because of millions of dollars in losses caused by an outbreak of a poisonous algal bloom.
According to the Web page of Marine Harvest Chile, about 1,000 people work in the various production facilities located mainly in the southern regions of Los Lagos and Aysen.
Industry experts place salmon mortality due to the algal bloom at about 100,000 tons, equivalent to 15 percent of Chile’s annual production and valued at $800 million.
That situation comes on top of the international drop in the price of salmon, Chile’s second biggest export after copper, a fact that caused production weakness and foreshadowed a possible crisis within the industry.
In 2007, Chile became the world’s second largest salmon producer, exceeded only by Norway, but the appearance of the ISA virus, which caused significant mortality among various species of fish and which ecological organizations blamed on Marine Harvest Chile S.A., led to a drastic reduction in production.