Chilean Biodiversity and Protected Areas Service: hostage to the lobby and salmon expansion

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By Juan Carlos Cárdenas
Cárdenas is a veterinarian and executive director of the Chilean marine protection group Ecoceanos.
Chile is one of the 10 countries that invest the least in the management of its biodiversity. Its National System of State Protected Wilderness Areas (Snaspe) has an insufficient budget for effective and efficient management, lacking the necessary infrastructure and personnel to cover its 21 protected wild areas. This reality, functional to neoliberal environmental policies, collides with the complacent and successful official statements on national progress in meeting the goal of protecting 30% of planetary biodiversity by 2030.
In this context of precariousness of the Snaspe, the future environmental consequences of the campaign of disinformation and political pressure carried out by the business associations of industrial salmon farming in coordination with 129 business associations, which achieved the rejection in the Chilean Parliament of the modification of article 158 of the General Law on Fisheries and Aquaculture, thus blocking the possibility of prohibiting the non-renewal or granting of new concessions for the industrial cultivation of salmonids within the protected wild areas of the State.
It is a paradoxical result that, after 12 years of a systematic blockade by the salmon business community to the creation of the National System of Protected Areas (SBAP) and the Biodiversity and Protected Areas Service, it has been the rejection of Parliament that will enable the salmon business community to launder and to obtain legal certainty for the irregular presence of its 411 salmonid fattening centers that have been operating for decades in the protected areas of Chilean Patagonia.
A destructive business action in protected areas
The salmon cluster presents four decades of a rich sanitary-environmental criminal record, with repeated and serious events of chemical and organic contamination; massive escapes of carnivorous, exotic and invasive species; repeated blooms of toxic microalgae associated with illegal overproduction, and situations of eutrophication due to contamination of the seabed and the water column, as well as clandestine eliminations of marine mammals, among other impacts.
The Superintendency of the Environment (SMA) has recently opened 38 sanctioning processes for overproduction in 14 salmon fattening centers, most of them located in protected wild areas, and under the category of default, as the companies have repeatedly this illegal practice successively, despite the sanctions applied.
Entre las involucradas destacan las empresas de capital noruego Mowi Chile S.A., Cermaq Chile S.A., Marine Harvest Chile S.A. y Nova Austral (norteamericana-noruega). También se encuentran en procesos sancionatorios Cook Aquaculture Chile, de capitales canadienses, Australis, de inversionistas chinos, Yadran S.A., Exportadora Los Fiordos Ltda., Salmones Blumar S.A., Salmones Multiexport S.A., Invermar S.A., Fiordo Azul S.A., Empresas Aquachile S.A. y Granja Marina Tornagaleones S.A., entre otros titulares.
Among those involved are the Norwegian capital companies Mowi Chile S.A., Cermaq Chile S.A., Marine Harvest Chile S.A. and Nova Austral (North American-Norwegian). Cook Aquaculture Chile, from Canadian capital, Australis, from Chinese investors, Yadran S.A., Exportadora Los Fiordos Ltda., Salmones Blumar S.A., Salmones Multiexport S.A., Invermar S.A., Fiordo Azul S.A., Empresas Aquachile S.A. are also in sanctioning processes. and Granja Marina Tornagaleones S.A., among other owners.
From the perspective of the integrity of protected areas, the greatest sanitary-environmental impact caused by the usual illegal overproduction of salmon in continuous cycles is the loss of oxygen (anaerobiosis) in the water column and seabed adjacent to the center. farming, due to the accumulation of salmon feces, uneaten food, antibiotics and various chemicals, which are dumped into the marine environment. It is estimated that in order to achieve the biological recovery of these fragile aquatic ecosystems, between 40 and 50 years are required in case of extreme damage.
State corruption and parliamentary whitewashing
Of the 1,400 salmon concessions granted by the Chilean State, 411 are located within protected areas, which is equivalent to 32% of the total concessioned, and produce 50% of the million tons of salmon and trout produced annually in the country.
In this sui generis scenario, the existence of 286 salmon concessions granted in perpetuity (sic) within the protected areas of the State is striking, which reveals the corrupt practices and ecocidal actions of the fisheries and aquaculture Chilean administrations during the last decades.
Another 140 concessions are valid for 25 years. Of these, 44 will conclude their period in the next 12 to 13 years, while 34 will expire in 13 and 15 years, and 33 will do so between 15 and 17 years, reaching these processes of renewal or relocation of salmon centers until the year 2044. which belies the recent campaign of corporate terror that threatened salmon workers with the loss of their jobs once the SBAP law was enacted.
During the discussion in the Mixed Commission of the modification of Article 158, the Chilean State, through the Minister of the Environment and her advisers, tried to provide greater certainty to the aquaculture business community and its transversal "salmon parliamentary bench", entering as an indication a transitory article indicating that the applications for aquaculture concessions in process within the protected areas, and whose technical project was approved by the Undersecretariat of Fisheries and Aquaculture, would continue to advance without problem until their final approval.
The “Salmon Republic”
The political, economic and media power exhibited during the discussion of the SBAP project, as well as the growing pressure and threats against indigenous communities and environmental and human rights defenders, alert to the factual actions of the corporate interests of the salmon mega-industry, that make it a threat to the democratization of Chilean society, and the possibility of building a sustainable, decentralized and socially equitable development model.
The next objectives of the salmon business during this year will focus on relocating their less profitable and vulnerable concessions, the creation of an Aquaculture Law tailored to their interests, and the weakening and subsequent modification of Law 20249 (“Lafkenche Law” ) to prevent the delivery of applications for Coastal Marine Spaces of Original Peoples (EMCPOs), in order to dispose of and occupy these vast coastal territories with new concessions and relocations.
Struggle of the socio-environmental movement and indigenous peoples
Faced with the business assault on the marine-coastal territories of southern Chile, the socio-environmental movement and the communities of indigenous peoples will continue their fight to achieve a moratorium on the expansion of monocultures of salmonids, the removal of aquaculture concessions from protected areas, vulnerable ecosystems and ancestral territories, and the revocation of Environmental Qualification Resolutions (RCA) to salmon companies that are inconsistent offenders within protected areas of the State.
In turn, the boycott of the purchase and consumption of Chilean industrial chemical salmon will continue to be promoted to stop corporate ecocide in the Mapuche territories of Gulumapu and Kawesqae Waes, and to support the workers' struggle against overexploitation, job insecurity, and gender rights abuses in industrial salmon farming. Today, Chile holds the record for fatalities of its workers in global salmon farming, with 75 deaths in processing plants, farming centers, maritime and land transport between 2013 and 2022.

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