Biofoulers in Northern Atacama Region, Chile
The upwelling of deep ocean water from Southern Chile brings nutrient rich seawater to the northern part. With natural bays, no rainfall in the Atacama Desert (the driest location on Earth) and low population densities in northern Chile create unique opportunities for aquaculture in pristine, nutrient rich, high saline water to support high density of planktons and microalgae, enabling aquaculture of a wide variety of species of shellfish. The cultured species include northern scallops, Japanese and Chilean oysters, abalone, mussels and turbot.
However, fouling of nets is a primary problem that affects the productivity and profitability of aquaculture such enterprises. Scallops for example are cultured in net structures called ‘lanterns.’ The juveniles are placed inside and the entire lantern submerged in the sea. However, in as little as two months of immersion, the nets become totally fouled by red seaweed and by ascidians. Barnacle fouling is minimal and not a primary concern compared to the heavy macro-algae/ascidian fouling.
The region’s organic wealth, its clear waters and sheltered bays, together with its entrepreneurial experience, favor the development of aquaculture. Species produced include the northern scallop, Japanese and Chilean oysters, abalone, turbot, algae, and different varieties of mussels.
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