The marine conservation organization, Oceana, welcomed the decision of the Chilean Undersecretary of Fisheries and Aquaculture, Raúl Súnico, to withdraw the proposal to establish five salmon farm concessions in Tortel, in Chilean Patagonia. The proposal had caused widespread concern among national and international environmental organizations, tourism-related groups in the Aysen Region, and the local Tortel community itself.
“This is a landmark achievement that will help protect Tortel, one of the most pristine and emblematic areas in Patagonia. We welcome the decision made by Undersecretary Súnico which sets a limit to the expansion of a polluting industry like salmon farming”, stated Alex Muñoz, Vice-President for Oceana in Chile.
In a press conference the Undersecretary stated that salmon farming was eliminated from the approve uses in areas suitable for aquaculture (AAA) in Tortel. This permanent decision is, according to the Undersecretary, a political measure that emerged from listening to citizens. “We acknowledge that Tortel, its local community, has identified tourism as its main development driver and, in our opinion, salmon farming is inconsistent with such priority ", said Súnico.
Oceana and groups in Tortel –including the Asociación de Turismo Glaciares del Sur, Los Chonkes, Patagonia Austral– and regional organizations like the de Coyhaique Chamber of Tourism, Codeff Aysén, Agrupación Aysén Reserva de Vida, Coalición Aysén Reserva de Vida, Costa Carrera and Codesa, promoted the campaign “Tortel Free From Salmon Farms” which collected thousands of signatures in support.
These groups will now insist in the creation of a Multiple Use Marine and Coastal Protected Area for Tortel, a project submitted by the Municipality of Tortel and Oceana in 2009. This initiative aims at promoting activities such as tourism and artisanal fishing, based on which development and ecosystem protection can go hand in hand.
“Patagonia deserves to enjoy sustainable development which is based on activities that create jobs and, at the same time, show their respect for nature. By creating this multiple use marine protected area, Tortel can become a replicable model that combines both elements”, finalized Alex Muñoz.