Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Rising from the ashes: Camanchaca’s case

by Franco Vera

Salmones Camanchaca’s hatchery in Ensenada, close to Petrohue river in southern Chile, was badly affected in April 2015 by a sudden eruption of the Calbuco volcano, which was inactive for more than 40 years. Today, it looks as if nothing had happened, and the brand-new facility has become again an example of state-of-the-art RAS technology.

Salmones Camanchaca’s hatchery in Ensenada is located on the road that connects the towns of Ensenada and Ralun in the Los Lagos region of Chile. It is a global benchmark for recirculation technology, and the first to use this technology in early 2000´s and is among the largest in the world, producing 12 million smolts-per-annum. A visitor would never suspect that only four years ago, this land was fully covered by ashes from the bottom of the earth lifted by the neighboring volcano, Calbuco.

People working on the day of the eruption felt some slight tremors. Hugo Cajas, Camanchaca’s hatchery’s Head Officer, reported "initially nothing strange was felt, considering that Chile is a seismic country, however, we started to received photos from a distant town, displaying an impressive plume emerging from Volcano Calbuco. We started to realise the magnitude of the event”.

Some employees went outside the hatchery to watch the neighboring volcano, located approximately 30 kilometers away, and noticed a gigantic mass of ashes and volcanic sand from the volcano’s explosions, which started to cover the facility completely.

This ash plume was one of the largest ever recorded in Chile. Everyone followed the company’s strict safety protocols and left the plant. Hugo Cajas recalls; our foremost critical concern was people’s security and ordered an immediate evacuation".

Once the evacuation was almost completed, we made sure that the equipment’s were left “on” to procure oxygenation to the baby fishes, aiming to protect as many as possible”.

The extent of the damage became apparent over the next few days, as fish mortality reached around 50 percent. In only a few hours, 15 years of work at the plant was buried under 600 kg/m2 of ash and volcanic sand, resulting in structural damage to the entire facility, as well as broken ponds and troughs.

Titanic rescue work managed to save around seven million fish, or one half, most of which were moved to other hatcheries using 250 trucks, while over one million smolts were taken to marine farm sites in 11 boats. This was a massive logistical challenge, carried out in the middle of an unstable volcano activity.

But natural disasters don't paralyse Chileans. As soon as Camanchaca’s employees were able to return to the hatchery, the rebuilding mode was played out.

Cajas said "we never thought of leaving the plant, were forced to do so, but as soon as authorities permitted, were back to manage the disaster and initiate the reconstruction".

Read more HERE.

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