By Juan Carlos Cárdenas
The mega sanitary and environmental crisis that still affects the island of Chiloé, has revealed that the publicized Voluntary Agreement for Clean Production (APL) of the salmon industry, which bears the fancy name of "Conservation of the blue whale and large cetaceans in northern Patagonia, Los Lagos region ”, is just corporate advertising and marketing.
The launch of this APL was carried out with great international diffusion, during the second “OurOcean” conference (October 5-6, 2015, Viña del Mar, Chile), an event that was sponsored by the State Department of the North American government and the Ministry Chilean Foreign Ministry.
This sui generis public-private initiative is spearheaded by the Minister of Economy, Luis Felipe Céspedes and his environment counterpart, Pablo Badenier, with the transnational NGO World Wildlife Fund (WWF) as environmental endorsement. This APL is politically supported by the Undersecretariat of Fisheries and Aquaculture (Subpesca), the National Fisheries and Aquaculture Service (Sernapesca), the Production Promotion Corporation (Corfo) and the General Directorate of Maritime Territory and Merchant Marine (Directemar ), who are led by the National Council for Clean Production (CPL).
As a corporate counterpart, it has the mega companies that are members of the “Global Salmon Initiative” (GSI): Aqua Chile, Blumar, Camanchaca, Los Fiordos, Multiexport and Ventisqueros. It is important to note that 70% of the costs of this million-dollar salmon farming public relations operation are contributed by Chilean taxpayers.
According to the APL, public money is being spent, among other items, on sustainability diagnoses, internal audits, public relations, technical assistance, and monitoring of the consultants and NGOs involved.
Dressing the silk salmon farms
Initially it drew the attention of the citizen organizations that this APL had been agreed by the government with an industry characterized by its extremely high levels of organic pollutant emissions - from feces and uneaten food - and the indiscriminate use of chemicals, such as antibiotics. (1), antiparasitics to combat sea lice, and antifouling paints to prevent the adherence of marine organisms.
To the above, we must add the evident contamination of beaches and seabed with plastic food bags, plumage, steel cables and nets from the cage rafts, which has destroyed the scenic beauty of large coastal areas of Chiloé, Aysén and Magallanes.
Clean salmon farming: Just propaganda for the unwary
The various media attempts at voluntary agreements aimed at a supposed clean salmon production in Chile have been denied by the successive and disastrous health and environmental crises caused by these industrial monocultures that allocate 98% of their production to export.
In 2007, before the mega sanitary crisis caused by the introduction of the ISA virus from Norway, a project was agreed between WWF and the Norwegian salmon company Marine Harvest for the cultivation of fingerlings or juvenile salmon (smolt, in English), exclusively in closed circulation water tanks. Its objective was to reduce the high levels of pollution caused by the cultivation of fingerlings in the rivers and lakes of southern Chile.
However, this internationally publicized project did not prosper, since Marine Harvest, after having enjoyed extensive marketing, refused to abandon the Chilean lakes for economic reasons. The then technical director of Marine Harvest in Chile, Adolfo Alvial (now in charge of CORFO's financing programs for the salmon industry), justified the unilateral suspension of the project, because “the company had other concerns as a result of the ISA virus crisis. ”.
In a complementary manner, the WWF, together with salmon companies and various government services, attempted to declare 2007 the Gulf of Corcovado, Los Lagos region, as a marine protected area for the conservation of the blue whale. However, this initiative also failed due to the lack of consultation and participation of the local coastal communities, and the failure to include any type of environmental and sanitary regulation for the protection of blue whales, which would protect it from organic and chemical contamination. from the salmon industry.
That is why the audacious image washing of the polluting salmon companies implemented since 2015, tries to continue using the population of blue whales as a distraction from the serious health and environmental impacts that they cause on the coastal ecosystems of the Chiloé archipelago, and the regions of Aysén and Magallanes.
Elsa Cabrera, director of the Cetacea Conservation Center (CCC) pointed out to the APL that “it is questionable to use the conservation of blue whales for the signing of this voluntary agreement, since the salmon industry is one of the main responsible for the contamination and destruction of the fjords of southern Chile, which are part of the feeding area of this species ”(3).
Cabrera recalled that in 2007 in a blue whale expert workshop held during the Society for Marine Mammology Biennial, contamination from the salmon industry in Chile was identified as a threat to the conservation of this species of marine mammal.
When lies have short feet
Not a month had passed since the APL of the salmon industry had been signed in October 2015, when the Los Fiordos company, belonging to the Agrosúper holding company, was sanctioned by the Superintendency of the Environment (SMA), verifying 38 serious violations of environmental regulations and sanitary, in 18 of its 38 salmon farming centers located in the Puyuhuapi channel, Aysén region (4).
Among the main infractions detected were: large accumulations of disused networks, many of them contaminated with toxic antifouling paint; plastic waste and metal cables abandoned on beaches; the existence of organic waste and metallic remains on the seabed and coastal areas under the rafts-cages; and illegal disposal of organic waste, which run off in the form of highly polluting liquids towards the pristine Patagonian fjords nearby.
Added to this were the discovery of a series of rafts-cages and floating platforms that operated illegally outside the concession areas, and the illegal production of salmonids, which were commercialized without paying tax. These last crimes were detected in the Los Fiordos farming center in Bahía Anita, Puyuhuapi channel.
The Los Fiordos salmon company was fined $ 2,226 million pesos (approx. 3.5 million dollars), the highest fine ever issued to a salmon company in Chile. However, the company appealed to the Valdivia Environmental Court, the penalty being lowered to less than half its value. On May 27, 2016 Agrosúper announced that it will appeal to nullify all of the SMA sanctions.
It is important to remember that the Los Fiordos salmon farm is the Chilean capital company with the most centers certified under the standard of the WWF Aquaculture Stewardship Council.
Salmon APL: Sea lions continue to be eliminated
The APL promoted by the Chilean State, the salmon companies and the WWF, contemplates a discriminatory conservation criterion for marine mammals. It only incorporates “charismatic species”, functional to its international marketing and fundraising campaigns, such as the blue whale and other species of large cetaceans. With this, the APL left completely unprotected key marine mammals for regional ecosystems, such as the common sea lion, Orcas and small cetaceans, which have continued to be systematically and illegally eliminated by the salmon industry. The APL also does not contemplate conservation measures for river or sea otters, or sea elephants, species that interact with the salmon industry in its new areas of expansion in Aysén and Magallanes.
Last April, the cruel slaughter of a common sea lion was denounced by an armed guard at the “Cascada” farming center of the Aqua Chile company - a member of the APL-, located in the Melimoyu sector, Aysén region (5) .
Previously salmon companies such as Los Fiordos and Yadrán, have been denounced for the killings of these marine mammals.
Demand accounts on salmon APL and the use of public money
The signing of the salmon APL has served to stop the adoption of mandatory regulations for these polluting industrial monocultures and wash the international image of exporting companies based in Chile, while their negative environmental and social impacts continue in Chiloé, and the Aysén regions. Magallanes, BioBio, Araucanía and Los Ríos.
For this reason, the social organizations belonging to the Social Coordinator for the Defense of the Sea, demand to end the fraudulent salmon APL, and publicly evaluate its implementation, given the serious violations of the sanitary and environmental regulations for aquaculture (RAMA), carried out by the companies belonging to Salmón Chile during the serious crisis of blooming harmful algae and the dumping of thousands of tons of organic and chemical waste, between January and April 2016.
In addition, it is required to know the amount and public money used in the salmon APL. A similar requirement is made with respect to a millionaire state subsidy called the Mesoregional Strategic Program "sustainable salmon" from Corfo, Ministry of the Economy.
Given the increasing levels of environmental destruction and health risks that accompany the territorial and productive expansion of industrial salmonid monocultures in the Chiloé archipelago, and the BioBio, Los Lagos, Aysén and Magallanes regions, it is necessary to demand the support of citizens and coastal communities, as well as consumers and international retailers –especially from the United States, Europe, Brazil and Argentina-, so that they do not consume the products of this sub-standard industry in environmental, health and social terms.
Major supermarkets in the United States such as Cotsco, Safeway and Target Corp, have already taken actions to reduce their purchases of salmon from Chile, due to health reasons, such as the abusive use of antibiotics.
* Executive Director Centro Ecoceanos
(1) The Chilean-based salmon industry exports 98% of its production. During 2014 it used 563,200kgs of antibiotics for a production of 895,000 tons. This is equivalent to the use of 5,000 times more antibiotics per ton of salmon, compared to the Norwegian production that precedes it, which only uses 972 kgs of antibiotics to produce 1,200,000 tons of salmon per year.
(2) http://www.ccc-chile.org/ WilfiredHuismann. PandaLeaks, TheDarkSide of the WWF (2012. Nordbook UG).
(3) http://www.radiodelmar.cl/ - http://eldesconcierto.cl/vida-sustentable/2015/11/10/accionar-ilegal-y-contaminante-de-agrosuper-deja-en-evidencia- the-non-credibility-of-the-clean-production-agreement-salmon /
(5) http://www.radiodelmar.cl/ http://www.radiodelmar.cl/