Argentina and Chile: “No to salmon farming”

Argentina, Chile, Salmon, Farming, Beagle channel

Tierra del Fuego, Ushuaia. Saturday 8 May 2021. In a self-organized way, a group of Argentines and Chileans gathered on their kayaks in the middle of the Beagle Channel to show their support for the sanctioning of the Argentine bill to ban salmon farming in the province and to demand the end of the salmon industry in the channels, fjords and fragile ecosystems of Chile.

Salmon farming threatens biodiversity, the health of its inhabitants and economic development. The Tierra del Fuego province is the only place in the country where the salmon industry is pushing to install salmon farms. If the law is passed, Tierra del Fuego would become the first place in the world to ban salmon farming before it’s established.

In short, it would be a way of showing the importance of pushing for a sustainable economic and productive model that respects cultural traditions and artisanal practices, both of which create real jobs and incomes that stem from tourism and the commercialization of local products.

The campaign was self-organized by the citizens of Ushuaia and Río Grande in Argentina and Puerto Williams in Chile, the members of the nautical community, various representatives from different clubs (Club Náutico AFASyN, Club Náutico de Río Grande, Club Shima Waia, Club de Pesca con Mosca and Club Río Grande), the Yagán community in Puerto Williams, the marine program of Rewilding Argentina “Sin Azul No Hay Verde,” and Greenpeace, among others.

In addition, the initiative has the support of the outdoor clothing brand Patagonia, renowned for its environmental activism. From the Argentine side, the self-convened people set off in kayaks from Estancia Harberton, and from the Chilean side, they set off from Puerto Williams to meet at the boundary that divides the channel and display a banner against salmon farming.

“No to salmon farming”

In May 2019, legislators Mónica Urquiza (now vice-governor of Tierra del Fuego) and Pablo Villegas presented a provincial bill to ban salmon farming in Tierra del Fuego. The bill was reintroduced to the Legislature this year by Pablo Villegas. For their part, the citizens of Puerto Williams, in Chile, succeeded for the first time in removing cages that were already installed and ready for production. They also were able to ensure the expiration of the aquaculture concessions that had been granted so far.

David Alday, the spokesperson for the Yagán community of Puerto Williams, said: “We can’t damage this natural aquarium that we both share. That’s why, in this binational meeting, we once again state our commitment to the sea and to the environment, and from this age-old channel that for thousands of years has been navigated by our Yagan canoe people, we say NO to salmon farming.”

Mariano Torre, actor and environmental activist from Tierra del Fuego, said: “This is a premium product that very few Argentines can access at the expense of the health and wellbeing of an entire province. Tourism in Tierra del Fuego generates more than 16,500 jobs. Salmon farming would generate 120 jobs, and would be in direct competition with tourism, as both industries need the channel to grow.”

The communities of Puerto Williams and Tierra del Fuego have managed to stop the expansion of the industry in the Beagle Channel so far. But Tierra del Fuego needs to pass the bill to ban it definitively, and Puerto Williams, in turn, needs to move forward with the Yagan community’s Marine Coastal Space for Native Peoples (ECMPO): the only concrete and effective way to protect the area.

The latest disaster

The recent environmental disaster involving the massive death of over 5,000 tons of salmon in the Comau Fjord and the Jacaf and Puyuhuapi channels in the regions of Los Lagos and Aysén in Chile highlighted once again the impact of salmon farming on Patagonia’s fragile ecosystems. As a result, over 50 organizations submitted a letter to the Chilean government demanding for the concessions to not be extended, for no new cages to be installed and for the industry to withdraw from the at risk ecosystems and the protected areas.

In addition, the digital campaign “No More Environmental Disasters” is spreading through Patagonia Chile’s P2action platform, which enables people to send an email directly to the Chilean authorities to demand the end of the salmon farming industry in canals, fjords and lakes in the south of the country.

Watch the video to find out more! Visit Sin Azul No Hay Verde online and on Twitter and Facebook.

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