After more than five hours of discussion, the Joint Commission of Congress rejected the Chilean Government's indication in the SBAP bill, which, as a consequence, would modify Article 158 of the Fisheries Act. A change that put aquaculture concessions in these protected areas at stake, preventing the renewal of more than 60% in the southern zone, which was granted for a 25-year term.
These were days of maximum tension in which more than 70,000 jobs were put at risk. As a result, the streets were full of posters with the slogan "I am from the south, I am a salmon farmer," the war cry with which Chileans directly and indirectly related to the farms demanded their rights. However, everything is now paralyzed. After failing to reach a consensus, with five votes in favor and five against, it was agreed to prohibit any new aquaculture concession in these areas, preventing the renewal of the operational ones granted for 25 years. But this translates into time, and as a result, in the possibility of discussing.
The importance of maintaining Article 158 is that it allows the basis for negotiation to be established. Thus, the salmon farming industry can discuss the current concessions in protected areas, their modifications, and even relocations where appropriate. Changes can occur at a slower pace compared to what would have been mandated by the SBAP bill.
In the last few years, salmon farming has radically changed southern Chile. The industry is a driving force for employment and equity, with high female employment rates. It has even contributed 2% of the national GDP, becoming the third largest export sector after copper and lithium. This reality speaks to the importance of the industry, as well as how changes should be made.
The president of SalmonChile, Arturo Clément, stated that the opportunity has been given "to discuss the future of salmon farming with time, with information based on science and with a strong focus on the decentralization of the country." In addition, Clément explained that the industry was open to discussing changes but with dialogue. The industry wants to "build together good public policies, to lay the foundations for the aquaculture of the future."
According to SalmonChile, the Joint Commission highlighted the importance of creating opportunities for dialogue and listening to all the actors involved in decision-making. "We greatly appreciate the fact that the voice of the people of the south, operators, transporters, SMEs, fish farmers, and the great value chain of this sector has been heard," concluded Clément.