Fish Farms Here... Fish Farms There...

Submitted by Danny Catt on Thu, 2007/02/08 - 2:11pm.
Fish Farm on the Coast of Chile
Fish Farm on the Coast of Chile

Fish farming (aquaculture) is a billion dollar industry in Chile. Shellfish (mussels, Pacific oysters, & scallops) seaweeds as well as trout and salmon are all farmed here. In fact about 95 % of Chile’s aquaculture industry focuses on trout and salmon which are raised in pens on the southern coast of the country and then sold on the international market. You will not find fish farms on the northern coast of Chile because it is open directly to the Pacific but as you make your way down the coast you eventually reach the protected waters of the southern fjords (much like BC’s inside passage). There amongst the protected channels and inside waters you can see a great number of fish farms (that are raising the trout and salmon) as well as the associated fish processing facilities. The species raised in Chile are Atlantic, Chinook (King), and Coho (Silver) salmon and Rainbow trout.

Fish Processing Facility on the Coast of Chile
Fish Processing Facility on the Coast of Chile

One would think (at least I did originally) that fish farming is a good thing. The human population on the planet continues to grow, and with more and more mouths to feed we need to find sustainable ways to provide high quality food to the human population.

But… does the farming of salmon make sense? Is it sustainable? On the coast of British Columbia conservation groups, and some members of the general public, are concerned about the impact and potential dangers of fish farming. Fishermen on the coast of Alaska are strongly opposed to fish farming and many are upset that the province of BC allows it to occur. There are concerns that diseases and parasites may be transferred from the fish raised in farms to wild salmon stocks (the farmed fish are raised in pens in very high densities and are susceptible to both diseases and parasites). Another concern is that one of the main species raised on the BC coast is not native to British Columbia (the Atlantic salmon is the most commonly farmed species on BC’s coast and it is native to the east coast – the Atlantic Ocean – not the Pacific coast). The issue of concern is what will happen when non-native Atlantic salmon escape from their pens (which they do frequently) and mix with the native wild Pacific salmon stocks? Up to now we don’t really know what the consequences and outcomes will be of these escapes.

Then… there is the issue of what the farmed fish are being fed – fish meal. Small bait fish (jack mackerel, anchovy, sardine) are harvested in huge quantities from the ocean off the Chilean coast. These fish are then processed and converted into fish meal which is used to feed the trout and salmon being raised in the fish pens. The fish meal though is not just fed to pen raised salmon in Chile, it is fed to farm raised fish in many parts of the world (Canada, Norway, Scotland, etc). In 2004 the value of the export of these bait fish to the Chilean economy was half a billion dollars!

From what I have read (and I am not a fish farm expert by any stretch) it takes about 3 kg of fish meal to produce 1 kg of farmed salmon. Does it make sense to remove so many fish from the sea to ‘grow’ other fish? Is that sustainable? We also have little knowledge about the potential consequences of these practices. How are we impacting the other fish and wildlife species in these coastal ecosystems? For example, how are we impacting the fish, mammals and birds that would typically feed on the anchovies and sardines that are no longer available because they are being harvested and exported to be fed to farm raised salmon? These are questions that likely many of us do not consider and that we really need to find the answers to. Something must be happening but because it is below the ocean surface, we don’t see the impacts.

Do you think there is a relationship between the fish farms in British Columbia and penguins in South America? If you would like to find out, read a brief article by Rafe Mair at:

Some of the fish meal that is used to feed the farm raised salmon in BC comes from Chile (and also from Peru). This relationship is a good example of a ‘global connection’ and is something that I did not know much about prior to coming to Chile.

If you want to know more about aquaculture (fish farming) in general you can do a Google search with words such as aquaculture, fish farming, salmon, concerns (and put in the different regions such as British Columbia, or Chile, or Norway).

Let me know what you find out!
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Submitted by Theresa & Marcus Ryan (not verified) on Fri, 2007/02/09 - 6:56am.

Hi Danny!  Your pic of the fish farm reminds us of seeing the fish farms off the coast of BC first hand...such a widespread dilemma!  People here in Ontario really have no idea what it's all about.  It's great to see all your pictures again, though, thanks for sharing them.

Theresa & Marcus (& Charlie!) Ryan 

Submitted by Danny Catt on Wed, 2007/02/14 - 8:09am.

Hi Theresa et al!

Great to hear from you... and yes, the coast of Chile reminded me very much of the central coast of BC. I will add some more pics to this blog post soon. Hope you are well... and I am pleased you are all following along!



Submitted by Jill in Whistler (not verified) on Sat, 2007/02/10 - 3:25pm.
Hi Danny!
I've so enjoyed following along on your travels. I'm in awe of the incredible places you've safe and have fun! By the way, your photos are stunning....keep up the good work :-)
Submitted by Danny Catt on Wed, 2007/02/14 - 8:12am.

Hi Jill!

Great to hear from you and thanks for the kind words. I have been trying to keep up with the blog but am a fair bit behind... alas, I will post more pics soon. I hope all is well in snowy Whistler... here on the coast of Uruguay (just arrived this morning) the sun is hot... about 33 degrees C! Say hello again when you have a moment.



Submitted by Chris (not verified) on Tue, 2007/02/13 - 10:44am.

Hi Danny:

Your pictures are amazing as usual and I am enjoying following along with you on your journey.  Stay safe and enjoy life to the fullest.


Submitted by Danny Catt on Wed, 2007/02/14 - 8:14am.

Hola from the coast of Uruguay!

Thanks very much for your words of encouragement and I am glad you are following along. I promise to add more pics soon! And we hope to have photo galleries up and running in the not too distant future... keep your eyes on the site :) Hope you are well


Submitted by Pikake on Thu, 2007/02/15 - 2:21pm.

Hi Danny -

What's the difference between fish pens and fish farms?


Submitted by Danny Catt on Fri, 2007/02/16 - 11:59am.

Hi Terry,

Apologies if I was not clear... a fish farm can have a large number of pens. Basicallly a pen is a big net with fish iinside. The fish in the pens are fed pellets. Hope this makes sense. :)


Submitted by Mike (not verified) on Mon, 2007/03/05 - 8:10am.
Please give me more information about a Scholarship being offered
Submitted by Danny Catt on Tue, 2007/03/20 - 12:11pm.

Hello Mike,

Thanks for your message. There will be information about the BC High School Global Connections Essay/Story Contest posted on the website very soon. Thanks for your interest.



Submitted by samuel (not verified) on Wed, 2007/03/14 - 5:51am.
Submitted by Danny Catt on Tue, 2007/03/20 - 12:15pm.

Hi Samuel,

Thank you for your post on the blog. You are right that there are many ways to raise fish in pens, some are self-contained and do not pollute the water. With the continued increase in human population on the planet, we need to come up with ways to raise food that are clean and sustainable to feed all the hungry mouths the world over. Thanks for taking the time to submit your thoughts.

Cheers, Danny