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Chilean Farm Tenures Concern Environmental NGO's

CHILE - Through a letter sent to the Chilean Minister of Economy, Mr. Hugo Lavados, eight Chilean and international environmental organizations have asked to halt the granting of aquaculture tenures to farm salmon in the Regions of Los Lagos, Aysn and Magallanes.

The request will be held until there are "regulatory, institutional and factual conditions that to decide on whether or not it is convenient to promote the expansion of these activities in areas of ecological importance in those three regions of Southern Chile".

The letter signed by Centro Ballena Azul, Conservación Marina, Chile Ambiente, Ecosistemas, Fundación Pumalín, Fundación Terram, Oceana and WWF, recognizes the differences between the strategies and visions of the different subscribing organizations; nevertheless, it highlights the existence of full consensus on the importance of the Chilean Patagonia and its exceptional ecological and cultural values, as well as the urgency to halt the process to grant aquaculture tenures in Southern Chile. "We are deeply concerned about the aggressive expansion of salmon farming in Patagonia and we believe that this development is occurring without having sufficient conditions that enable guaranteeing the appropriate preservation of the ecosystem in the area, and without giving a prime importance to the precautionary principle. It is not convenient to continue granting aquaculture tenures and issuing environmental qualification resolutions, as long as there is no clarity on the new statute that will rule over the salmon farming sector, even more so, when no measure has been implemented to assure that Patagonian ecosystems are preserved, even to a minimum, in the face of the effects of aquaculture activities", state the organizations in the letter.

The group of NGO´s said that the growth of salmon farming has been supported by insufficient and obsolete regulations, that are not in agreement with the magnitude of the international industry. These regulations have not been able to guarantee the health of ecosystems and the preservation of the environment in the Southernmost areas of Chile, neither have they made this industrial activity compatible with other economic activities that have a lower impact and which were traditionally carried out in the area.

"The Chilean Patagonia and its seas host part of the most valuable ecosystems in the world, endowed with a great biodiversity and an abundance of natural resources, as well as the rich culture of the local communities that live closely linked to the integrity of such natural environment" says the letter, adding that "this exceptional ecological value fully justifies the implementation of special protection measures aimed at preserving its extraordinary natural wealth". Also, the organizations explained that, by virtue of the precautionary principle, no operation of any industrial activity with high environmental impacts should be authorized in this area, as long as insufficient scientific information is available on its carrying capacity, which should be obtained through validated methods, and as long as an ecosystem approach is not applied.

According to the organizations subscribing the letter, this common vision is a response to the expansion projections of the salmon farming industry towards more austral regions, the granting of which would be incompatible with the sustainable development of this area. It must be pointed out that there are currently 1.083 salmon farm tenure applications for the Magallanes Region and 1.141 applications filed-in for Aysén. Even if they are not all granted, given the high level of historical rejection to which they have been subjected, the excessive filing of these applications poses at least one element of risk due to the possibility of their assignment, and generates distortions in the economic development planning for these regions.

Ellen Hardy

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