Nippon’s postwar contribution / Helped Chile become world No. 2 in salmon farming

By Kenichi Yoshida / Yomiuri Shimbun Correspondent PUERTO MONTT, Chile — Shoppers at supermarkets across Japan are quite familiar with salmon produced in Chile, reflecting the result of technical cooperation extended to the country by Japan and how Chile has grown to be one of the world’s leading producers of the popular silvery fish.

In mid-June, I visited a salmon aquaculture facility in the Puerto Montt suburbs of southern Chile. The facility is run by AquaChile S.A., a major salmon farming company in Chile.

More than 20 pens measuring 30 square meters each were lined up in rows, with countless salmon splashing around in them.

“I’ve been involved with salmon for more than 40 years. Initially, I couldn’t imagine that the salmon industry would develop in Chile. We are grateful for Japan’s cooperation,” said Mario Puchi, 64, one of the founding members of the company.

Japan’s technical cooperation with Chile’s salmon industry started with a project to “transplant salmon,” aiming to release salmon fry in Chilean rivers in the hope they would return to their spawning grounds as adult fish.

The Japan International Cooperation Agency dispatched Japanese specialists to Chile, where they released a massive quantity of salmon fry in Chilean rivers from 1972 to 1987 — but only a few were confirmed to have returned as adult fish.

Though a failed endeavor, the project spurred private-sector businesses by showing that fry could be raised in pens.

Nichiro Corp., now Maruha Nichiro Corp., succeeded for the first time in ocean cultivation of salmon in 1981 in Chile, paving the way for the development of aquaculture industry in the country.

Around 30 Chileans were given technical training in Japan for the transplant project, learning about the ecology of salmon and other matters. Many would go on to join private fishery enterprises in Chile, assuming a pivotal role in the country’s salmon farming industry.

Accounting for about 30 percent of total global production, Chile produces around 700,000 tons of farmed salmon a year as the second largest producer after Norway.

“Japan’s cooperation became the foundation for our country’s salmon farming industry, from the establishment of hatching techniques to the development of human resources,” said Eugenio Zamorano, chief of the Aquaculture Division of the Undersecretariat for Fisheries and Aquaculture at the Economy, Development and Tourism Ministry of Chile.\

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