Miguel Ángel Calisto speaking in the Chamber of Deputies.

Follow the money!

New law in Chile would reveal who finances anti-salmon NGOs, says politician who fears cash could be from foreign sources that may want to harm the sector to benefit themselves


Foreign and domestic groups campaigning against salmon farming in Chile may soon have a legal obligation to be transparent about where their money comes from.

Members of the Chilean parliament’s Chamber of Deputies passed an amendment that requires non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to register annually the amounts and sources of their funding, including the names of contributors, where applicable.

The amendment must still be passed by the Senate before it becomes law.

Deputy Miguel Ángel Calisto, who proposed the amendment to existing legislation, said the Deputies’ approval of his project was “an important step that Congress takes for total transparency with respect to Chilean and foreign NGOs”.

Financing 'obscure'

Calisto, who represents the salmon farming region of Aysén, added: “Until now, they have kept the origin of their financing obscure and the country must really know who they represent when they intervene in public debates and legal discussions.”

Fish Farming Expert’s Chilean sister site, Salmonexpert.cl, asked Calisto if the law change will show the real intentions of some NGOs against salmon farming.

The purpose of this project is that NGOs, which are organisations that pursue public goals from the private world, make transparent who is behind their financing, just as any public body does.

Deputy Miguel Ángel Calisto

He replied: “The purpose of this project, as has been said throughout its entire process, is that NGOs, which are organisations that pursue public goals from the private world, make transparent who is behind their financing, just as any public body does.

“So, from that perspective, it will serve to show not only who finances them, but also the interests behind these organisations, since there are many foreign capitals that can support these groups with an interest in harming Chilean salmon farming to promote their own interests, and we cannot allow that.”

Environmental 'facade'

Asked what intentions some NGOs may have against the salmon industry, Calisto said: “Unfortunately, until there is active and real transparency on the part of NGOs, it is not possible to know their real intentions. However, I would dare to say that there are many NGOs that, using the facade of being environmentalists or concerned about the well-being of ecosystems, seek to affect local economies.

“This also happens, without a doubt, in the world of salmon farming and it is everyone’s task to show the benefits of this industry to the labour, economic and social world of the Aysén region, preventing external interests from affecting us by generating situations that damage the workforce and the main economic income of the region.”

Carlos Odebret: "It is important that those who participate in the public debate can be clear about the origin of the financing of the interests represented by NGOs."

Carlos Odebret, president of the Magallanes Salmon Farmers’ Association, told Salmonexpert that NGOs are interest groups, with many of them seeking to influence public policies in Chile.

“It is important that those who participate directly or indirectly in the public debate can be clear about the origin of the financing of the interests represented by non-governmental organisations, whether they come from national or foreign natural or legal persons,” said the director.

Influencing regulations

He added: “NGOs have an interest in the future of the salmon industry and, especially, in influencing the regulations on the sector and the implementation of actions to limit it. For example, the international NGO Oceana played a very active role in the parliament project on salmon escapes and antibiotic use.

“The transnational NGO Greenpeace has promoted million-dollar communication campaigns against the salmon industry and has demanded that the government change the category of the Kawésqar Reserve to a National Park.

“The NGO Pew Charitable Trust collaborates with Conaf (the Chilean state’s National Forest Corporation) in the development of the Management Plans for Protected Areas, and Terram (a Santiago-based, sustainability, environment, and development foundation) has presented various appeals to the Comptroller’s Office requesting the expiration of the salmon concessions.”

$45m budget

Oceana is headquartered in Washington DC in the United States and says on its website that its support comes from foundations, organisations, and individuals in more than 150 countries. In 2022, Oceana received cash and commitments from donors totalling US $46 million, of which approximately $31m was time- or program-restricted support and approximately $15m was unrestricted. Expenses totalled $45m in 2022.

Terram says on its website that in its 20 years of history, it has received funding from international organisations such as the European Union, Henrich Böell Foundation, World Bank, and Oxfam, among others.

“The Foundation’s financing is managed based on projects that are presented to various agencies to support work on the axes or themes prioritised by the organisation,” writes Terram.

Charitable funds

The Pew Charitable Trusts is the sole beneficiary of seven individual charitable funds established between 1948 and 1979 by two sons and two daughters of Sun Oil Company founder Joseph Newton Pew and his wife, Mary Anderson Pew. It says it works closely with scientists, local and Indigenous communities, policymakers, fishers, philanthropists, and other leading NGOs to expand and enhance global marine protections for the long-term benefit of ecosystems.

Greenpeace International says it has an Open Information Policy designed to ensure it meets both legal requirements and best practice in the handling of information.

“It follows the principles of availability, integrity and confidentiality (in priority order), while at the same time safeguarding, from abuse or compromise, our supporters’, people’s, allies’ and partners’ and our own sensitive information,” it writes on its website.

The NGO publishes an annual consolidated financial report which lists money going to and from Greenpeace organisations in different countries but not donors.