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Chilean salmon licences may go to highest and greenest bidder

A salmon farm in the Magallanes region. Photo: Salmonexpert archive.
A salmon farm in the Magallanes region. Photo: Salmonexpert archive.

Fish farmers in Chile may be asked to tender for aquaculture concessions that would come with new sustainability requirements if a bill introduced to the country’s Senate is progressed.

In a presentation about the state-supported initiative, Eugenio Zamorano, the head of the aquaculture division of the undersecretariat of fisheries, Subpesca, said the bill contained three principal ideas.

The first is that it incorporates the definition of a sustainable aquaculture concession, which would be delivered for a renewable 25-year term, as it is today, but would be allotted through a bidding process led by Subpesca.

The tender requirements would include technological innovation, waste management, use of antibiotics and antiparasitics, “all matters that are under permanent discussion when talking about aquaculture and salmon farming in particular”.

Extended fallow period

Secondly, it is proposed to allow concession holders to extend the length of time the site can be left fallow before the concession is withdrawn. This would be done to avoid the development of minimal operations that seek to avoid expiration.

Finally, the bill sets out what would happen to a concession if the site became part of a protected area, or it was determined that the area was not suitable for aquaculture.

Subpesca aquaculture division chief Eugenio Zamorano addresses the Senate in a virtual meeting.
Subpesca aquaculture division chief Eugenio Zamorano addresses the Senate in a virtual meeting.

Zamorano explained that, if it is decided that an aquaculture concession must be relocated from a protected area, the owner will be able to continue operating until the relocation occurs.

On the right track

In the opinion of the Subpesca official, the bill is on the right track, showing “interesting solutions to current problems”.

“However, it is necessary to review whether the mechanism is technically and legally suitable. For example, in bidding, it is relevant to know the regulations and if there are spaces for new concessions,” explained Zamorano.

Regarding the extension of the term to mothball concessions, the official said the key is to evaluate whether it should be granted in all eventualities or made compatible with measures such as farming density. 

Zamorano also pointed out that the issue of relocation of aquaculture concessions from protected areas is not fully addressed in aspects such as availability of spaces, which is important to clarify technically.

The bill offers a different approach to salmon farms in protected areas from that proposed by a group of MPs in Chile’s lower house, the Chamber of Deputies. The deputies, led by Jorge Brito, of centre-left party Democratic Revolution, want to cancel nearly 400 salmon farm licences in the Guaitecas Forest Reserve in the Aysén Region and Kawésqar National Reserve in the Magallanes Region, without alternative sites being provided.