Chile's first Aquaculture Law: government calls on the salmon industry to seek "broad agreements"

"We firmly believe that to advance the development of the sector, broad agreements are required," said Undersecretary of Fisheries and Aquaculture Julio Salas.
Julio Salas, Undersecretary of Fisheries and Aquaculture called for collaboration from the private sector but also recognized the responsibilities of the public sector in addressing the future of the salmon industry in Chile through the first Aquaculture Law.
Julio Salas, Undersecretary of Fisheries and Aquaculture called for collaboration from the private sector but also recognized the responsibilities of the public sector in addressing the future of the salmon industry in Chile through the first Aquaculture Law.Photo: Subpesca.

Chile's Undersecretary of Fisheries and Aquaculture (Subpesca), Julio Salas, called on the aquaculture sector to regain confidence, seek broad agreements, and participate in the process of preparing what will be the country's first Aquaculture Law. He did so at the X AquaForum Conference, held last week in Puerto Varas, Los Lagos region, gathering fishing and environmental authorities, businessmen, suppliers, and workers of the sector.

There, on the first day, presentations focused on the future of the sector and government policy in the main salmon-producing countries. In addition to Salas' presentation - entitled 'Challenges for a new Aquaculture Law' - participants were also able to listen to a recorded presentation by Cecilie Myrseth, Norway's new Fisheries and Oceans Minister, who spoke about Norway's plan for the growth of the aquaculture industry and activities in protected areas.

Public-private relationship still failing

It is in this context that Chile's Undersecretary of Fisheries and Aquaculture pointed out that as a government "we firmly believe that in order to move forward in the development of aquaculture, broad agreements are required." However, Julio Salas also added that to meet that objective, trust among stakeholders is indispensable and, he acknowledged, "This is where we are still failing in the public-private relationship."

The head of Subpesca gave as an example the rejection by the three salmon farming associations of the indication to article 158 of the draft of the Biodiversity and Protected Areas Protection Service Act (SBAP), which, in his words, gave certainty to the concessions on the way. "That indication, which was worked jointly by the Ministry of Environment and by us, to improve the conditions of the industry, was rejected by the three aquaculture unions. And that was a mistake that, in private, they have recognized to me, because if we had had this regulation we would be in better conditions for the coming conversation," he said.

In May this year, thousands of Chileans took to the streets to protest against the SBAP bill. A few days later, the Joint Commission of Congress rejected the Chilean Government's indication in the bill that would modify Article 158 of the Fisheries Law. A change that would put aquaculture concessions in protected areas at stake, preventing the renewal of more than 60% in the southern zone. The debate reopened in September when Chile's Ministry of the Environment (MMA) announced that if a protected area did not have a current and approved management plan, the authorities would not be able to grant new commercial activities within that area.

Long-term development of salmon farming

The Undersecretary of Fisheries and Aquaculture took advantage of his participation in the X AquaForum Conference to leave that confrontation in the past and emphasize that we are now in a different climate. "This different climate means that we need to recover trust and understand that it is possible in this sector to have a small oasis from the tensions that exist outside and be able to discuss matters in depth to achieve mechanisms that allow the development of the aquaculture activity and, particularly, of salmon farming with a long-term projection," he said.

"That is the will that this Administration has," added Julio Salas who also acknowledged that the public sector also does not contribute to the recovery of trust if it does not give proof of efficiency. "We have to advance in this articulation of the public sector, only then can we provide concrete and serious solutions, because there are problems that have been dragging on for decades. If we ensure the correct intersectoral coordination of the State and the correct public-private articulation, we will have concrete solutions."

Salas added that what is ultimately sought is "that salmon farming develops, that it grows, that we return to being the number one competitor in the salmon sector, not the loss of competitiveness that we have had in the last 10 years, but that requires us to be sustainable, it requires us to be sustainable over time".

Invitation to participate in the Aquaculture Law

Thus, in this line of ensuring intersectoral coordination of the State and public-private articulation, Salas said that progress is being made in simplifying procedures with the Undersecretariat of the Armed Forces. The objective is to speed up the processing of requests, such as those related to the relocation of concessions and triple-A areas, among other aspects.

Likewise, in what Subpesca describes as "another example of the search for specific answers to the challenges of the activity," the Undersecretary of Fisheries invited all the actors in the sector to participate actively in what will be Chile's first General Aquaculture Law.

As was done for the formulation of the draft of the new Fisheries Law, which will be presented soon, a participatory process with the parties involved is also contemplated here. In fact, consultations began two months ago with small-scale fish farmers and will continue in December with a working day with the mussel farmers in the Los Lagos region, and with the salmon farmers in Valparaíso.

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