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Also Chilean Salmon Farmers Now Exploring Bluefin

Seafood business group Pesquera Coloso is exporing the possibility of entering the tuna farming business in northern Chile through its San Jose subsidiary. The seafood company already maintains a foothold in the Chilean salmon industry and is looking to diversify its aquaculture sector activity.

“Salmon farming companies are looking to diversify their portfolio overall due to the problems caused by the infectious salmon anaemia (ISA) virus in aquaculture. And those of us inside this business are at an advantage because we know fish farming inside and out,” Maximiliano Alarma, lead researcher for San Jose, told El Mercurio.

The activity's major draw is the kind of price and demand that tuna maintains in all the world’s markets, Alarma remarked, adding, that no matter what, the company’s participation in the tuna farming business will come to fruition five or six years down the road.

"Time for study and investment is required. First we have to find out the biological feasibility of effectively reproducing tuna in captivity,” he explained.

According to General Manager Lucas Silva of the Development Corporation for Arturo Prat University at Iquique (CORDUNAP), an entity that is launching a pilot tuna farming experiment in 2010, as part of a project funded by Innova Chile, the price of tuna varies between USD 20 and USD 50 per kilo, and demand for the fish remains high.

Tuna's main consumer is Japan, where demand for the species has an annual growth rate of 18 per cent.

In May 2008, representatives of AquaNegocios Ltd, and experts from Arturo Prat University at Iquique began the research needed for the establishment of a preliminary techno-productive foundation for a bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus) commercial fattening centre in northern Chile.

Six fisheries and aquaculture companies in the sector were invited to participate in the initiative, in a bid to formulate a new business model.

“The overexploitation of tuna stocks, pushed by growing demand for the fish in the kitchens of the world, have placed the bluefin tuna in a precarious situation, which has led to the development of major farmed fish projects in Japan, Spain and Mexico,” commented Daniel Catalan, general manager of AquaNegocios Ltd.

"If the salmon industry is consolidated in the south of the country at a cost of USD 4 per kg, in the worst case scenario, the tuna costs USD 30 to USD 35 per kg. This can be a tremendously important development hub for northern Chile,” he explained.