In light of the voting of the General Law on Fisheries and Aquaculture that occurred this week in the Senate and Deputies Chamber, Oceana criticizes the economic incentives that seek to improve conditions for salmon-producing companies to access financing without any consideration for the environmental impacts it causes.
The environmental organization was against the parts of the reform that allowed salmon aquaculture companies to mortgage its aquaculture tenures. However, Oceana appreciates the specific areas of the reform that addressed the escape of farmed salmonids that poses a serious problem for the environment. The reform aims to prevent the occurrence of escapes and sanction those responsible for them.
"Apparently the serious environmental and sanitary crisis that has engulfed the salmon industry, and for which it is responsible for, has not been enough for lawmakers to adopt effective measures that are proportional to the magnitude of the problem. This law puts the emphasis on creating even more favorable financial conditions for this economic sector and not the substantial changes to needed to protect ecosystems and human health," says Alex Muñoz, Oceana’s Executive Director in Chile.
Oceana feels that, in spite of these shortcomings, the Senate Committee on Fishing managed to improve the law with new amendments that protect marine ecosystems. For example, new measures were created to prevent the escape of salmonids and to regulate the use of antibiotics in the industry.
"Chile has a high rate of salmon and trout escapes which is due in large part to weak standards. It was urgent, therefore, to include new legal demands that could drastically reduce the number of escapees and punish those responsible when they have acted negligently or intentionally”, said Muñoz.
Last July, the organization introduced a proposal to the Senate Committee on Fisheries to incorporate new provisions into the law that obliges companies to prevent the escape of salmonids, to report them, to repair the environmental damages they cause and to mitigate any further impacts as well as establishing penalties when the releases have been deliberate or caused by incompliance with standards.
In addition, since 2007 Oceana has been proposing to legislate on the use of antibiotics in salmon farming in order to reduce the amounts used, which in 2007 was 600 times higher in Chile than in Norway. The organization appreciates the measures announced by the government in March 2009, that plans to reduce antibiotic use through the law. These plans include the prohibition of the prophylactic use of these substances and to implement a public information system that will monitor the amount and types of antibiotics used.
Oceana insists on the need to promote other sustainable economic activities and to end the support to an industry that has not been able to operate in an environmentally respectful manner. "The salmon aquaculture activity, as any other, must comply with strict environmental standards. If the salmon farming industry cannot survive with these standards, then it's time to seek other economic activities in Southern Chile," declared Muñoz.