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Tierra del Fuego’s ban on ‘big salmon’ moves a step closer

Protesters calling for a law against net pen salmon farms in Tierra del Fuego province, Argentina.
Protesters calling for a law against net pen salmon farms in Tierra del Fuego province, Argentina.

The government of Tierra del Fuego has officially approved a bill to ban large-scale salmon farming from being established in the Argentine province’s sea and lakes.

The move follows the unanimous approval of the bill by Tierra del Fuego’s legislative council, reports MercoPress news agency. But the bill must be regulated by the Fisheries and Aquaculture department of the Argentine government’s Production and Environment Ministry before it can take effect. That must be done within 30 days.

Although the bill blocks large-scale fish farming, it leaves room for existing artisanal-scale rainbow trout production, as well as the authorisation of new projects at artisanal level which have an approved “strategic and cumulative” environmental impact, and which to not represent more than 50 tonnes annual production, says MercoPress.

‘Control, don’t ban’

The bill has had strong support from Argentina’s Deputy Minister of Environment and Sustainable Growth, Sergio Federovisky, but not from Productive Development Minister, Matias Kulfas, who has said the sanctioning of the bill was the “wrong decision”.

Instead of banning “we need to control closely and that is why point-blank prohibition of salmon farming is a mistake”, said Kulfas.

Tierra del Fuego province bordered in red. Chile is to the west and south. Click on image to enlarge. The southern Chile-Argentina border runs through the Beagle Channel. Map: Google.
Tierra del Fuego province bordered in red. Chile is to the west and south. Click on image to enlarge. The southern Chile-Argentina border runs through the Beagle Channel. Map: Google.

Feasibility study

The province of Tierra del Fuego is part of Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego in the extreme south of South. The border between Argentina and Chile runs from north to south down the middle of the island and then tracks east along the Beagle Channel that forms the island’s southern coastline.

Opposition to the industry potentially moving across the border gathered momentum when Tierra del Fuego province’s then governor, Rosana Bertone, agreed to a feasibility study by Norwegian salmon companies about farming in the Beagle Channel.

The study was never completed, and Bertone decided not to move forward with the project, but non-governmental organisations (NGOs), and scientists began to insist upon the enactment of a law prohibiting salmon farming at the provincial level.