AIDA: Protecting Magellanes Marine Environment from Salmon Aquaculture

Chile is the second largest producer of salmon in the world.

Following collapse of the salmon fishery in the Lagos region, Chile’s government is promoting salmon aquaculture in the pristine waters of the Magallanes Peninsula. Potential environmental impacts are predictable. Government agencies report that 75% of salmon farms in the Magallanes have created anaerobic dead zones. Anaerobic conditions are caused by nitrogen fertilizers that feed algal blooms (made worse in waters warmed by climate change), and by buildup of fish waste and uneaten feed containing pesticides, dyes, fungicides, and chemicals. Additionally, each salmon is injected with antibiotics, up to 5,000 times more than used in Norway, that also enter the environment when salmon die. When farmed salmon escape their pens, as they often do, they compete with native fish for food and shelter, and transmit viral and bacterial diseases common to fish in overcrowded pens.

The Chilean government has not conducted a proper environmental impact assessment of the industry in Magallanes; only one affidavit has been filed, and that statement omitted the farms’ load capacity. Failure to account for load capacity means the industry can expand without limits until it depletes the surrounding marine ecosystem.

By promoting destructive aquaculture, especially in an ecological hotspot such as Patagonia, Chile is violating various such treaties as the Ramsar Convention, the Convention on Biological Diversity, and ordinances issued by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

Activities:

  1. Commission Hector Kol, University of Chile biologist, to produce a report on the state of the industry;
  2. Collaborate with project partners on a media advocacy campaign;
  3. File a complaint with the Environmental Superintendent to generate an investigation of the industry.
  4. File urgent alerts with international treaty/convention authorities;

The campaign will raise public awareness and generate pressure on authorities to investigate and more stringently regulate the industry.

The report will also provide the foundation of urgent alerts to international authorities and of our complaint to the Environmental Superintendent.

Past experience has shown that this combination of scientific information, communications, and legal advocacy yields significant domestic and international pressure that can move governments to protect the environment. In Mexico and Costa Rica, AIDA has stopped two destructive aquaculture projects. In Mexico, we also moved the government to protect wetlands of international importance and then to establish a National Wetlands Policy; and prevented construction of massive tourist complexes that would damage the marine environment. In Costa Rica we enforced international treaties to protect endangered green sea turtles and prevented coastal oil drilling.

In this instance, we aim to conserve a highly sensitive marine environment, which is less resilient than waters further north. If the thousands of permits in the pipeline are approved, collapse of the Magallanes marine environment is imminent.


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