We can stop salmon farming in the Argentine Sea

We can stop salmon farming in the Argentine Sea 672 498 The Forum for the Conservation of the Patagonian Sea

To prevent the installation of salmon farms in Tierra del Fuego, Argentina, and to stop their expansion in southern Chile. With that intention, Alex Muñoz spoke on behalf of the civil society through the Forum for the Conservation of the Patagonian Sea during the Conversatory of the II International Symposium of Invasive Salmonids held in Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego, organized by the Austral Center for Scientific Research (CADIC), the Millennium Nucleus of Invasive Salmonids (INVASAL) and the National University of Tierra del Fuego (UNTDF). The Chilean experience, the value of the area and the possibility of choosing that Argentine authorities have.

Alex Muñoz Wilson at the Conversatory of the II International Symposium of Invasive Salmonids

Focusing on the value of the Patagonian Sea and based on the Chilean experience, the Forum for the Conservation of the Patagonian Sea, through Alex Muñoz, Director of the National Geographic Pristine Seas program for Latin America, explained how the Chilean authorities, the industry and the civil society have addressed the main moments of salmon farming, in such a way as to draw lessons useful to face the interest in installing the first salmon farms in Argentina.

“Salmon farming companies have used Patagonia as a garbage dump. The Chilean experience with salmon farming has been very negative in the environmental, health and social aspects and we do not want the same thing to happen in Argentina,” says Muñoz about the activity that positioned Chile as the second largest producer of salmon and trout in the world, after Norway. According to the Business Perceptions Report of the Central Bank of Chile, 791 thousand tons were produced in 2017, with annual returns over 4.6 billion dollars. “Argentina must understand that the great value of Patagonia is in its well-kept nature. That is what tourists from all over the world are attracted to and also what creates thousands of jobs,” he said.

Salmon farming in Chile is an activity based on the introduction of exotic species. Its farms are located in very fragile areas of high ecological value. Although this industry has been introduced as an economic “miracle” due to its high incomes, it has caused significant environmental and health problems, as well as social instability due to the high number of dismissals that occur each time it goes through a crisis.

“Diseases such as SRS and Caligus have not been eradicated, and have been addressed through the excessive use of antibiotics and antiparasitics. Massive dismissals are the first measure they take in order to reduce costs every time there is a mass mortality of fish. And government agencies have not been strong enough as to effectively control a union with high political influence,” explains Muñoz.

Public Conversatory at the # SISI2019, Ushuaia, Argentina

Argentina still has the chance to choose

“The debate on salmon farming in the Patagonian Sea is facing a turning point. Argentina still has the chance to choose. It has the chance to prevent an environmental disaster in one of the regions with the most pristine waters in the whole planet. The possibility of developing laws that ban salmon farming in the country is an option Chile no longer has. There, however, we tried to restrain its expansion and to prevent the installation of farms that were approved under irregular processes, in areas adjacent to Tierra del Fuego, for example,” explains Alexandra Sapoznikow, coordinator of the Forum for the Conservation of the Patagonian Sea.

In July, through a document regarding the risks and impacts that salmon farming would cause in case projects that intend to install the activity in the Beagle Channel move forward, the Forum warned the authorities of Argentina and Tierra del Fuego about the Chilean experience. In recent months local, national and regional organizations, scientific institutions, chefs, local communities, indigenous peoples, tour operators and even some authorities have carried out new campaigns, which forced the province to announce that this issue is no longer a priority. In recent days, the Deliberating Council of Ushuaia even approved an ordinance that bans the activity in the city.

“We welcome both statements, but we can not settle. We have to make sure that the expansion plans of the industry will not reach other areas of the province not included in the municipal land, such as the Beagle Channel itself, nor other provinces and regions of the Patagonian Sea that offer suitable conditions,” says Sapoznikow.

In parallel, they expect that the entire region continues to make progress in the creation and effective management of Marine Protected Areas which regulate or prohibit activities that rely on the very same thing they seek to protect.