Editor Note: This is the last update from Oceana online editor Emily Fisher in Patagonia. She returns to Santiago today. For more photos, visit our Flickr page.
On my last day in Patagonia, I joined a group of about 25 travelers, including Italians, Argentinians, Spaniards, Mexicans and one Brit, on a boat cruise into one of Chile's most picturesque waterways.
The boat took us into the Seno Ultima Esperanza (“Last Hope Sound”), which was so-named because its European discoverers were nearly dead when they finally found it, searching for the western entrance to the Magellan Strait.
But now Ultima Esperanza, which happens to also be the name of this region of Patagonia, has taken on a new significance, as the salmon farming industry is also looking to these clean waters to salvage their business. The industry has submitted requests for hundreds of new salmon farms in the waters of Ultima Esperanza, and as I saw today, these are waters that are rich with wildlife and peeping tourists.
Editor's Note: Oceana online editor Emily Fisher is reporting from Chilean Patagonia this week, a beautiful place under threat from polluting salmon aquaculture. She'll be sending updates throughout the week. See more photos on our Flickr page.
I’ve known about the negative impacts of salmon farming in Chile for years, but this morning I finally got a glimpse of the source.
A Puerto Natales local named Fernando, with extensive knowledge of the area’s waters, was kind enough to take me out in his boat. The morning was overcast and chilly, but according to Fernando, it was a great day to go out on the water due to the calm winds, which he said was the biggest problem for excursion operators like him this time of year.
Donning ridiculous orange jumpsuits to protect us from the elements, we hopped in his boat. Within three minutes – no exaggeration – he quieted the motor, pointing to a pod of southern dolphins. There were at least eight dolphins zooming around our boat, taunting me to capture them with my inadequate camera. When they finally got sick of us, we motored over, a few hundred meters away, to see a non-functioning salmon farm. Its orange buoys bobbed serenely as we sped off, spotting even more dolphins.
Editor's Note: Oceana's online editor, Emily Fisher, is currently reporting from the wilds of Chilean Patagonia, a beautiful and austere place at risk from salmon aquaculture. She'll be sending reports throughout the week as her internet connection allows!
Patagonia: the very word evokes wilderness, jagged snow-capped peaks and turquoise glaciers. It is a mecca for adventure-seekers the world around.
But there’s a new foreigner on the way, one that speaks neither Spanish, nor English, French, or German, and is indifferent to its picturesque surroundings: Atlantic salmon.
I’ve just arrived in Chilean Patagonia, where I’m hoping to find out more about the pending reincarnation of the Chilean salmon aquaculture industry. After it was devastated by a bout of Infectious Salmon Anemia (ISA) in 2007, most of the country’s farms shut down in the country’s Lakes region (Los Lagos), leaving behind a wake of unemployment and pollution.
Now the industry is poised to start over, this time in the turquoise waters of Patagonia, threatening marine ecosystems and wildlife, artisanal fishing and tourism.
Groundbreaking news out of Chile, and it's not about the earthquake.
As a direct result of Oceana’s campaign work to reform the Chilean salmon aquaculture industry, this week the Chilean Congress passed legislation to prevent the escape of farmed salmon and further regulate the use of antibiotics in salmon aquaculture.
The reform criminalizes farmed salmon escapes and imposes hefty fines as well as prison sentences for violators. It also bans the preventive use of antibiotics, and requires companies to make public the amounts and types of antibiotics they use, in addition to their specific prescribed use. Oceana has been working since 2008 to convince Chile to restrict the use of antibiotics in salmon farming.
In a blow to the salmon aquaculture industry, on Tuesday Target announced it will stop selling farmed salmon in favor of more environmentally sustainable wild-caught salmon in its fresh, frozen and smoked seafood sections.
With its announcement, Target -- the second largest retailer in the country behind Wal-Mart -- raises the profile of the slew of problems associated with farming one of the most popular seafood species.
In case you need a refresher on why farmed salmon is so deleterious to the environment and potentially public health, check out this post I wrote back in 2008.
In the U.S. Oceana is working to protect wild Pacific salmon, and in Chile, we are working to reduce the use of antibiotics in the industry, reduce salmon escapes and establish a marine protected area in Patagonia to defend its pristine ecosystems from the industry's southern push.