Abalone aquaculture is rapidly developing in Chile although this mollusc does not occur naturally in this country. The red abalone Haliotis rufescens was introduced in 1977 and the ezo abalone Haliotis discus hannai in 1982. After several years of research and development, the industry began in 1992 and Chile is currently the fifth producer of cultured abalone in the world with 304 tons in 2006. Twenty five companies are involved in this Chilean industry, culturing mainly red abalone. Most of the farms in the North include hatcheries and land-based grow-out operations, whereas most of the in-water grow-out facilities are located in the South. All farms in Chile use algae as the main food for growing abalone, but artificial feeds are also used in some land-based operations in the North. The average size of abalone harvested in Chile is 8 cm (100–120 g) after 3–5 y in culture systems. Whole frozen abalone (shell on) is the most important form of this Chilean product (82% in 2006) and the main market is Japan (90.2%). Abalone production has increased at a rate of around 50% per annum over the last 3 y. This development is expected to continue in the next years, fostered by favorable geographic, economic, and environmental conditions as well as an important government support to invest in abalone. A survey among producers revealed that feed availability and quality is currently considered a key issue to further develop this industry in Chile.
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Vol. 26 • No. 3