Claudio Faúndez:

Two divers die in two days on Chilean salmon farms

Two divers have died in separate accidents at Chilean salmon farms in two consecutive days, prompting intensified calls from the national divers’ union for greater regulation.

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“We need an urgent law to be created, the divers’ law, just as Emilia’s Law was created [to more severely punish drunk drivers responsible for serious injury or fatal crashes],” said union president Claudio Faúndez in a social media post.

“The diver will not be respected as long as he is not a qualified professional.”

‘No regulation’

The union wants all divers in the country to demonstrate in front of the presidential palace in Santiago next month to demand greater regulation.

“There is no regulation. We have begged the deputies (MPs) and senators to attend us,” said Faúndez.

The first death occurred on Sunday, January 9, at a Salmones Camanchaca fish farm in the Hualaihué commune, Los Lagos, when Edgar Mansilla was trapped on the seabed while cleaning.

“Our colleague was cleaning predator nets with a hydro-washer when suddenly the air filter in the tank burst, leaving him trapped and unable to return to the surface,” Faúndez told Mundo Acuícola website. 

“I don't understand why the general salmon industry works at low cost. And the thing is that when a diver asks for greater safety demands, he is fired or simply has to lower his head.”

Recommended improvements

In a press release, Salmones Camanchaca offered its condolences for the death of the diver from the José Francisco Vargas company, with which it has worked for 15 years without having had an accident like the one that occurred on Sunday.

“Our company has extended its heartfelt and sincere condolences to his family, friends and co-workers for this unfortunate accident,” stated the salmon farmer. “Salmones Camanchaca makes a permanent effort to seek improvements in its supplier and contractor management processes precisely to improve standards and safety.”

According to the company, at the time of the incident, the fish farm personnel in Loncochalgua immediately notified the pertinent authorities and began an exhaustive survey of all the information and background information they have in order to help identify the causes of the accident.

Salmones Camanchaca also announced that it has been incorporating recommended improvements from producers’ organisation SalmonChile, which arose from an expert dialogue with professionals in underwater work.

Second death

The second tragedy occurred during the afternoon of Monday, January 10, while diver José Ruiz, 52, was working in a salmon farm located in the Aysén Fjord and operated by Salmones Antártica, which is owned by Japanese seafood giant Nissui.

Ruiz was working for Yankamar aquaculture services when the accident occurred at around 5pm.

SalmonChile expressed regret at the deaths and emphasised that commercial diving conditions had to be improved.

“Efforts must be redoubled to improve the conditions and execution of this activity, promoting control in the various operations, improving the standards of suppliers and services, constant training and self-care,” said Tomás Monge, territorial director of SalmonChile, in a press release.

New standard

SalmonChile highlighted the launch of the first safe diving standard and a diving school last year.

“These instances seek to lay the foundations for the development and training of the activity, seeking to make it safer, with better conditions and standards,” stressed Monge.

“Collaborative work between workers, diver organisations, contractor companies and constituents is essential to advance a better standard of safety in diving.”