Salmon stampede hype in Chile


Kate Casey

News excerpts gathered from the Diario La Nacion.

Ten days have past since a brutal earthquake caused huge chunks of rock and earth to plunge into the narrow reaches of the Aysén Fjord. 15 aquaculture sites amongst four salmon farming companies were literally crushed by the consequent tsunami that charged through the narrow channel. Joint efforts between the SalmonChile, the association of salmon producers, the local police, and the Chilean navy are still searching for seven missing workers. Public officials, private companies, scientists and non-governmental bystanders are all speaking up over what must be done to appease the damages. For the scientific sector, the tragedy has resulted in a welcome blessing since the Ministry of the Interior has called upon expert seismologists from around the world to help prepare for the future. Following a meeting between the Minister of the Interior and the director of the seismology group of the Universidad de Chile, Jaime Campos, he states, “This [solicited study] means the Government will grant the country the most modern technology available and will convert our young scientists into a group of researchers of the highest level. Our final objective is to avoid further mistakes in the construction of civil works such as bridges, dams, power plants, etc. in zones threatened by seismic activity.” As for the National Commission on Environmental Issues (CONAMA), a team of delegates spent less than 24 hours on a whirlwind visit to the Aysén fjord to evaluate the environmental repercussions from the damaged farm sites. Despite the urgency of the affected salmon companies to relocate their cages to new areas, the Minister of CONAMA, Ana Lya Uriarte explains, “the title holders of the affected [salmon farm] concession areas have not planned for the possibility of needing provisionary concessions. When they want to realize farming activities in protected areas, the projects must be put through an environmental impact study.” The president of SalmonChile, César Barros, is doing his best not to blow his top over such bureaucratic claims. With respect to the need to relocate some farm sites to unoccupied concession areas, Barros urges, “We are not asking to move to protected areas. There are many concession areas available and we must be able to relocate to as soon as possible so that the industry can return to some degree of normalcy. The red tape must be minimized.” Regarding the talk of ecologic danger due to the massive escapes of salmon (currently an estimated 12 million), Barros says he’s heard “the craziest remarks imaginable. I heard an environmentalist say that the salmon eat fish larger than themselves. According to environmentalists, a farmed salmon is capable of eating one of them.”