Moratorium on the expansion of the salmon industry recommended by the UN Rapporteur

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Cermaq's salmon cages in Seno Skyring. Magallanes, Chile. Photo: Sergio Salazar/GreenpeaceCermaq's salmon cages in Seno Skyring. Magallanes, Chile. Photo: Sergio Salazar/Greenpeace
 
 
Ecoceanos News – The United Nations rapporteur of human rights and the environment, David Boyd, published this month his report on his visit carried out to Chile in May 2023 in which he covers the impacts of the mineral, forest, salmon farming industries, and the use of freshwater in the South American country. With regards to the salmon industry, he recommends that the state of Chile "establish a postponement on the expansion of intensive industrial salmon farming at the wait/hope of an independent scientific analysis."
 
This report was presented during the 55th Session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland, that is taking place between February 26 and April 5, 2024.
 
Boyd is an associate professor of law, politics, and sustainability at the University of British Columbia in Canada.
 
The UN rapporteur warned about the existence of various "sacrifice zones" where "economic gains and private interests are prioritized over the environment, health and human rights."
 
Listening to the complaints and proposals of citizens and communities
David Boyd held meetings with more than one hundred people from citizen organizations, local communities, and indigenous peoples. In several cases it was pointed out that these violations have persisted for decades.
 
The report called attention to the fact that "wetlands in all the regions urgently need greater protection against the industry and urban development."
 
As well as spending several days in Santiago, the Special Rapporteur traveled to Concón, Quintero, and Puchuncavi in the central region, and Calama and San Pedro de Atacama in the north. He visited a lithium extraction factory in the Salar de Atacama, operated by the Chemical and Mineral Society of Chile. He also went to Puerto Montt, in the south, where he visited some salmon farming factories in the Relocanví estuary.
 
Human rights and the environment under increasing threat
Chile joined the Kumming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework in December 2022 and agreed to adopt a human rights-based approach to biodiversity conservation and restoration, as well as to protect at least 30% of all terrestrial, freshwater, and marine ecosystems by 2030.
 
Currently, 21% of Chile inland territory been allocated to national parks and other protected areas, while 42% of marine territory is found under various protection statuses. However, most of these protected areas lack management plans and the human and financial resources to carry out conservation actions are limited.
 
 
UN rapporteur David Boyd with citizen organizations at a meeting in Santiago, Chile. UN rapporteur David Boyd with citizen organizations at a meeting in Santiago, Chile.

 
Special Rapporteur recognizes environmental advances in Chile
Boyd considers the recent creation of the Biodiversity and Protected Areas Service as an important step forward, which established a national and integrated system of protected marine and land areas.
 
With respect to this, the Chilean marine protection group Ecoceanos indicates that "it's important to remember that, through an aggressive political and communication campaign, together with an intense lobby developed by the leaders of the salmon industry during the parliamentary discussion, the article prohibiting the current industrial aquaculture operations and the cultivation of exotic marine species within the system of protected areas of the State was rejected."
 
The UN rapporteur's report notes that "Chile has a new and strict legislation on climate and change and deserves to be congratulated for its leadership in closing coal-fired power plants, the generation of solar electricity and the protection of a large part of its marine space."
 
Among the current challenges are sacrifice zones, atmospheric pollution, access to secure and sufficient water supply, adaption to the climate crisis and the effective implementation of environmental political laws.
 
The UN report emphasized to the Chilean state that "indigenous peoples have an important part to play in the conservation of biodiversity in Chile."
 
The salmon industry: One of the main threats to human rights and the environment
The production and export industries of farmed salmon in Chile have exponentially increased their production by 3,619% in the period 1990-2022, positioning the South American country as the second largest global producer of that commodity with 36% of the global share. This has had serious cumulative impacts and costs on the environment, the aquatic biodiversity, and the rights of workers, coastal communities and of indigenous peoples.
 
"Salmon farming is one of the main threats to the environment that Patagonia faces, especially the Kawésqar National Park, which is important for the conservation of various species and ecosystems, among them 32 species of cetaceans" points out the UN rapporteur's report.
 
It adds that "the salmon industry has contributed to the increase of industrial waste on beaches, water and seabed."
 
Suspension of industrial salmon monoculture expansion pending independent scientific analysis
In the conclusions and recommendations chapter the United Nations rapporteur, David Boyd, pointed out that for Chile to reach "its environmental objectives, fulfil its human rights commitments, mitigate inequality and accelerate progress towards the attainment of the Objectives of Sustainable Development", the budget of the Environment Ministry would need to be considerably increased.
 
Furthermore, he suggests "eliminating sacrifice zones, strengthening air quality standards, reversing water privatization, continuing to accelerate the generation of renewable energy, and transitioning to a circular economy."
 
And regarding his visit to the south where the salmon factor operates, the UN rapporteur recommended establishing "a suspension on the expansion of salmon aquaculture pending independent scientific analysis of adverse environmental impacts."
 
 

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