Aysén governor Andrea Macías presiding over the CRUBC meeting yesterday.

Indigenous bid for control of salmon farming waters is thrown out

300 farms safe for now as villagers’ applications for 620,000 hectares of sea in Chile are rejected


A threat to 300 salmon farms and 5,000 jobs in Chile has been lifted after bids by two small indigenous communities for control of more than 620,000 hectares of sea in the Aysén region was overwhelming rejected, reports Fish Farming Expert's Chilean sister site, Salmonexpert.cl.

In a meeting lasting almost five hours, Chile’s Regional Coastal Edge Use Commission (CRUBC) rejected requests for ECMPOs (Coastal Maritime Spaces of Native Peoples) called Huichas and Cisnes Islands, made by the Antunen Rain and Pu Wapi villages respectively.

The Cisnes ECMPO proposal had 29 votes for rejection, 2 for approval, 2 for approval with modifications and 1 abstention; while the Islas Huichas ECMPO proposal had 29 votes for rejection, 2 for approval, 2 for approval with modifications and 1 abstention.

The proposals had created anger and fear in the non-indigenous community, with salmon farming workers’ unions protest marches. There were strong tensions in the room where the CRUBC held its public hearing yesterday, with some groups of indigenous peoples warning that it was “just the beginning” of these requests for coastal marine spaces, calling for dialogue and announcing that they will judicialize the process.

Dialogue and transparency required

Salmon farming organisations in Chile have called for changes to the way coastal rights applications by indigenous people are assessed after the Cisnes and Islas Huichas bids were rejected.

Tomás Monge, territorial director of SalmonChile, said: “In the session, the majority of CRUBC members criticised the opacity and lack of real spaces for participation in these two requests. We believe that, in the future, the Aysén Region deserves better instances of dialogue and participatory work, especially regarding territorial planning issues.”

Loreto Seguel, executive director of the Salmon Council, said the CRUBC’s decision reflected the spirit and original reason for Chile’s Lafkenche Law that grants limited resource access rights to all coastal indigenous communities.

“We are convinced that Conadi (Chile’s National Corporation for Indigenous Development) must reinforce the rigour and transparency of its processes to safeguard the integrity of the applications that are presented in the future, providing the resources that are necessary for this.

“We are committed to continuing to promote dialogue with the inhabitants of the areas where we operate, with the aim of projecting salmon farming towards a sustainable future in the southern zone.”

Before the 36 members of the CRUBC made their arguments, the Aysén governor Andrea Macías presented an alternative proposal to eventually approve the regional ECMPO with modifications, but this was not approved. It had proposed reducing the space of the Cisnes application from 227,000 to 25,000 hectares and that of Islas Huichas, from 393,000 to 16,000 hectares.


The governor’s department said there were already numerous designations and practices in the proposed ECMPOs that would be affected or be overlapped by the areas. These included the Las Guaitecas National Reserve; other indigenous communities that are dedicated to the extraction of pelagic, demersal and benthic marine resources; and the Areas Suitable for Aquaculture where it is intended to relocate salmon farming concessions.

The majority of speakers opposing the ECMPOs pointed out that they were very large and overlapped with other important activities in the Aysén region such as salmon farming. Also, it was not clear what real use they were intended for.

It should be noted that the communities that requested the ECMPOs asked, at the last minute, to postpone the vote due to the high tension in the process, but Macías, as president of the CRUBC, responded that it is not possible because it is not her power: she recalled that the Commission can approve, reject or approve with modifications the coastal spaces for indigenous peoples.