Multi-national salmon aquaculture firm Marine Harvest (based in Oslo), the largest player in a competitive industry, has lost 20% of their market capitalization in the first six months of 2011 (approx $715 million CDN). Described on their web site as “the world’s leading seafood company and largest producer of farmed salmon”, Marine Harvest has 42 farms in British Columbia and has been the target of large-scale opposition from conservation groups who claim that sea lice infestations from the farms have infected migrating wild salmon. Most recent claims are surfacing that large salmon farms may be infected with the infectious salmon anemia (ISA) virus, which virtually wiped out one half of the Chilean salmon stock in 2007-2008. Marine Harvest owns 19 salmon farms in Chile.
17 other multinational firms lost more than $3.1 billion combined in market capitalization during the same period, The panic gripping some investors today comes after climbing for well over a year & reaching record levels after the disaster in Chile. Norwegian salmon prices have plummeted due notably the Chilean ‘comeback’ underway and further anticipation that Chilean salmon production & exports will increase to surpass previous levels. Chilean news services report that 3000 new fish farm leases are being sought in the pristine waters in Patagonia and elsewhere.
It is thought that the re-emergence of the Chilean industry could dramatically affect the price of salmon for Marine Harvest, Cermac, Cooke Aquacultur and other firms which rely on the U.S. market to consume their product. Market analyst Calandar McDowell says that the market may not “expand” to include the additional millions of tonnes of salmon coming soon from Chile. It is not showing any real growth, they add, because most attempts to expand the market ignore the vast majority of US consumers, who in most cases don’t eat fresh fish. They have argued that the fish and seafood industry appears keen to persuade consumers to buy what it wants them to buy rather than ask consumers what they want and then consider producing it for them.