• AquaChile SA leads losses among local salmon farmers
  • Producers had led gains this year amid price recovery

Chilean salmon-farmer shares plummeted Tuesday in Santiago trading after a deadly algae bloom killed some of their fish.

A recent bloom of a variety of red tide algae known as chattonella killed 2.3 million Atlantic salmon worth about $15 million at four of AquaChile’s 30 production centers, the company said Monday in a filing to Chile’s regulator. That represents about 9 percent of AquaChile’s salmon in its fisheries.

Empresas AquaChile SA, Chile’s largest locally-owned salmon exporter, slumped 12.5 percent to 210 pesos at 2:25 P.m. in Santiago, a record loss. Tuesday’s drop erased almost half of the stock’s year-to-date gain. Australis Seafoods SA retreated 10 percent and Cia. Pesquera Camanchaca SA fell 6 percent.

"The companies are losing valuable production and will have to book big losses," Francisco Soto, head of trading at brokerage Tanner Corredores de Bolsa SA, said by e-mail. "We still have to see how good their contingency plans to avoid any more losses in production are."

Australis valued the salmon lost from the bloom at $6.5 million, according to a separate filing on Monday, while Camanchaca said Thursday that 3,400 tons of salmon, or almost half the fish, at its production centers in southern Chile have died due to toxins caused by the bloom. Camanchaca is the only one that said it had insurance to cover the losses.

Aquaculture companies in Chile, the world’s second-largest fresh salmon exporter after Norway, had been among the best performing stocks in the local market this year as prices recover. Camanchaca was up 24 percent through Monday, and Australis had gained 37 percent.

The average price of salmon exported to Miami rose 4.1 percent in the first five weeks of the year, while export prices to Brazil increased 8 percent, according to consulting firm SalmonEx.

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