The world’s farmed salmon industry was dealt bad news on Tuesday with media reports of Chilean President Gabriel Boric expressing his intention to limit the growth of the farmed salmon industry in his country.
Chile is the second largest producer of farmed salmon globally, churning out 633,500 tons in 2021. The industry brings in US$5.1 billion to the country’s economy and is the source of livelihood for 4,000 families.
The 36-year-old Boric, the youngest president in Chile’s history, was elected in December 2021 and took over the presidency last March.
His attitude towards the industry isn’t necessarily a surprise, according to Argentinian news site Pescare. As a member of the Chilean Congress prior to his being elected as president, he questioned the environmental sustainability of the industry, describing it as having been “very thoughtless in its actions.” It is a position that he said he still holds as president, the publication reported.
Boric comes from the Magallanes region, where there are 133 salmon concessions. The concessions were granted before the establishment of the Kawésqar National Reserve in the region.
A bill presented in the lower house of Congress at the end of 2021 when Boric was a lawmaker would modify an existing law on Fisheries and Aquaculture to exclude the cultivation of non-native species – which includes Atlantic salmon – in protected areas of Chile (such as parts of Magallanes).
“We have to aim for development that does not destroy us, because destroying the environment is destroying ourselves,” Boric was quoted as saying. “What I am clear about is that there cannot be mariculture in marine protected areas. That is as simple as… enforcing the law.”
Boric appears thoughtful with regards to the implication of the revised version of the law (if passed) on the communities depending on salmon farming. He says the proposal to discourage the industry’s growth “should be openly debated” given the number of people employed by the salmon sector.
“Any changes to the current laws governing the salmon industry must be made with the understanding that a simple closure would leave families dependent on the industry in dire straits,” he said.