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Oceana Joins Call For Chile Salmon Industry Moratorium

by Ellen Hardy
01 August 2008, at 1:00am

CHILE - The international marine conservation organisation Oceana has called on the Chilean Government to put a brake to the expansion of salmon aquaculture activity toward the south of the country, through the suspension of granting concessions in the Aysn and Magallanes regions.

In a letter sent by the organisation to the Minister of Economy, Hugo Lavados, Oceana expressed its deep concern about the imminent development of this industry in both regions, and urged it to suspend delivery of new concessions, at least until they have finished revising and modifying the applicable regulation to the aquaculture sector.

This process of review is being carried out by the Salmon Task Force called by this same minister.

"To continue granting aquaculture concessions while the regulation that will govern the salmon sector in the next years is being revised, does not only not make sense but also generates doubts on the real disposition of wanting to undertake in depth the environmental and sanitary problems of the salmon aquaculture industry through the Salmon Task Force. The logical thing is to suspend the granting of new concessions in Aysén and Magallanes while it is not shown that the crisis of the salmon industry is really controlled and the future of the sector is defined," said Alex Muñoz, Oceana Vice President for South America.

Oceana said the Government cannot continue ignoring the high environmental impacts of the intensive cultivation of species such as salmon, that has generated high environmental and sanitary impacts to the Region de Los Lagos, where the industry is now primarily located.

"Upon seeing the problems caused in said region, it makes clear the need of doing a deep assesment of the costs and environmental and sanitary implications caused in that zone, before deciding to prompt an expansion of the industry toward the south of Chile, especially when there is already news of the first bud of the ISA virus in the zone of Magallanes," added.

At present there are 1,249 requests of aquaculture concessions in procedure for the Magallanes Region, a figure that would increase by 1,303 per cent the current number of salmon farms in that region. For the region of Aysén, at February of this year there were 1,262 requests of concessions in procedure.

"The natural conditions of the marine ecosystems of these southern areas are the ones that are seriously threatened by the negative environmental impacts of the salmon aquaculture industry, particularly those associated with the excessive use of antibiotics, discharge of nutrients, damages caused to the benthic resources, the massive escape of salmon and the disruption of unique landscapes in the world", concluded Muñoz.

The salmon expansion toward Aysén and Magallanes will imply, even further, enlarging maritime transportation with the consequent environmental impacts associated, therewith, and increasing the works of road infrastructure which could affect protected wild areas and other sites of important ecological value. Finally, in the opinion of Oceana, the development of this activity will generate major sociocultural transformations upon strongly increasing the migratory flows toward the zone.

Ellen Hardy