It is common knowledge, that, during the year 2016, a series of events generated an explosion of negative publicity for the Salmon industry in the Los Lagos Region due to poor hygienic practices and little or no supervision by the government authority.
This situation is not new, as in previous years there were other events (ISA virus, for example), created by unsustainable and environmentally exploitive practices, that led to the near collapse of salmon industry, which eventually needed the economic support of the Chilean Government to survive. The ISA disaster created untold economic, social and environmental consequences for the southern regions of Chile.
Currently, the Aysen Region accounts for around 50% of salmon production in Chile and has experienced the same health problems, which conclusively led to the closure of many fish farming centers in the Los Lagos Region, leaving them unsuitable for production. However, despite these concern, the government has approved 35 new Appropriate Aquaculture Areas (AAAs) in the Aysen Region, specifically in the área of the Las Guaitecas National Reserve. The local population and numerous NGOs in the región question the wisdom of the decision and want to see the region dedicated to environmentally friendly development strategies, which are not compatible with the installation of new salmon production centers. Any extension of fish farming in the region should have appropriate territorial, coastal and marine planning that takes into account the environmental protection of the unique biodiversity and conservation values of the áreas, as well as legally empowered, free and informed citizen participation, carried out in good faith, so as to guarantee environmental, social and cultural rights of the región as well as the economic interests of all the individuals and groups concerned.
For this reason, Geute has focused on reviewing the legality and technical adequacy of the process of expansion used by the salmon industry in the Aysen Region and the interposition of administrative and judicial actions to address the concerns of the inhabitants in regard to environmental degradation that the salmon industry has wrought on other parts of Chile.
Reserva Nacional Las Guaitecas
The National Reserve Las Guaitecas is located in the communities of Cisnes and Aysén, in the Region of Aysén and is part of the Archipelago of the Chonos. It was created by Supreme Decree No. 2,612 on October 28, 1938. The flora found in the región is characteristic of its two predominate ecosystems: evergreen forests and peat bogs of the Los Chonos, where species like, Guaitecas cypress, Coilo de Chiloé, Tepu and Tineo can be found and the evergreen shrub lands, that host species like Coigue de Chiloé, Tepu and Mañio.
Regarding the fauna, especially on the archipelago, in this area are numerous species with high conservation value, many of them classified in a vulnerable state or in danger of extinction according to international organizations like IUCN. These include: huillín, Chilean dolphin, bottlenose dolphin , Sei whale, sperm whale, blue whale, fin whale, fine wolf, among others.
The archipelago region is one of the few areas of the austral sea that is free of salmon production activity, and the irresponsible expansion of this industry, characterized by its overcrowding, poor hygienic conditions and excessive use of antibiotics, seriously threatens the archipelago’s high ecosystem value and conservation importance.
By Patricio Segura Ortiz