The salmon farming industry in Chile is one of the nation’s most profitable businesses. In fact, after Norway, Chile is the second largest salmon producer in the world.
The industry’s growth is in part due to low labor costs and free use of water resources. But this success has come at a great cost, as the indiscriminate use of antibiotics in the production of farmed salmon puts at risk the health of wildlife that inhabits areas surrounding the cages, as well as the human population consuming the fish.
The campaign aims to persuade the Chilean government to revise the antibiotics permitted in salmon aquaculture in order to ban the use of quinolones, which are a family of antibiotics which are not approved for use in aquaculture in the US or in other countries due to their negative effect on the human immune system.
Moreover, Oceana is working to stop farmed salmon escapes in Chile. This is one of the most serious environmental problems of salmon farming in open waters: reports of salmon escapes in Chile range from 600,000 to 4 million of farmed salmon a year.
Escaped salmon generate various ecological effects, including predation and competition with native species; hybridization; transmission of diseases to native wildfish; and many of the native species affected by escaped salmon are the target species for artisanal fishing, causing economic losses in this sector estimated at $5 million annually.
Oceana is working to develop and present to the Chilean Government’s Undersecretary for Fisheries (SUBPESCA) a proposal for preventing, reporting, repairing and sanctioning the escapes of salmon in Chilean aquaculture.
Finally, Oceana in Chile is working to protect Patagonia from the expansion of salmon aquaculture. In 2008, Oceana began to work with the local communities of Tortel Cove and its surrounding fjords to achieve our objective of creating a marine protected area in Southern Patagonia.
Our goal is to protect the pristine waters in this area from the salmon farming industry’s as well as other potential industrial activities with deleterious impacts on the marine environment.
The salmon aquaculture industry is poised to aggressively move into this area. In Region XI, where Tortel Cove is located, just 65 concessions operate on 279 hectares, whereas new permits are requesting an increase to 1,028 concessions covering 18,128 hectares.
The campaign’s goal is to increase government oversight of the salmon industry, which would require scientific research, and would require the Chilean authorities to obtain enough resources to effectively regulate the salmon industry.