Yesterday the international marine conservation organization, OCEANA, asked the Commission on Maritime Interests, Fisheries and Aquaculture of the Chilean Senate to include a new regulation for the escape of salmon in the modifications to the General Law of Fisheries and Aquaculture that is currently being discussed in Congress.
In Oceana's view, the escape of salmon constitutes one of the most serious environmental problems related to salmon aquaculture. Because salmon are an exotic species, their escape has severe impacts in the ecosystems and on the local marine species. Current Chilean law only forces salmon aquaculture companies to create a basic contingency plan in the event of an escape and to report the occurrence of an escape.
"Chile has a high rate of salmon escapes, which is a result, to a great extent, of the weak regulations. These escapes create an urgency to establish a regulation that requires companies to prevent, to report, and repair damages and to mitigate impact, in addition to establishing sanctions when the escapes have been intentional or negligent," said Alex Muñoz, the executive director of Oceana.
The proposal by Oceana includes the incorporation of a new criminal law that penalizes the releasing of species from the aquaculture farms. Also, it proposes sanctions on the companies that do not fulfill the technical requirements and obligations to prevent the escape of these species, and creates new grounds for the revocation of aquaculture concession holders that have been sanctioned three times for the crime.
Oceana also proposed an amendment that would require the Undersecretary of Fisheries to dictate, in a term of six months from the implementation of the law, a regulation with measures to prevent the escape of these species. This includes measures related to the installation of the cages, the quality and type of materials for construction, as well as a requirement that the concession holder report the escape and mitigates the impacts that these escapes can have on the environment.
Salmon are an introduced species in Chile and when released to the marine ecosystem, they have various impacts on the environment. Many scientific studies have documented cases of predation of native species or of the organisms that serve as food to those species, crossbreeding with wild fish, and the transmission of diseases and parasites to the local fauna. In addition, many of the native species adversely affected by the escaped salmon are the resources for artisanal fishermen, which causes economic losses in that sector.