Authorities inspecting the site of a large salmon escape in Chile.

Chilean salmon farmers face tough penalties if fish escape

New law also requires more openness about antibiotic use


Chile’s parliament has passed a law that penalises farmed salmon escapes with a fine equivalent to the value of the lost harvest and suspension of operations at the site for up to four years.

The new law establishes three categories of offence: non-compliance with safety regulations in pen assemblies without fish; non-compliance with safety regulations, no escape; and salmon escape.

In the case of escapes, the number of escaped salmon, recaptured fish, and previous events will be among factors taken into consideration when a sanction is decided by authorities.

In the event that safety violations are detected with salmon in the pen, the fine will be the harvest value of half of the fish. If there is an escape, the fine will be the harvest value of escaped fish not recaptured, plus the prohibition of operation from one to four years.

Monitoring costs

Farmers whose fish escape must also finance ocean monitoring for two years to determine the derived effects of the escape.

The law requires that fishers who accidentally catch escaped salmon must report it in their landing declarations. It also demands more transparency on the use of antibiotics, penalises the malicious rupture of pens or theft of species, and prohibits the deliberate release of salmon from fish farms.

The Salmon Council, which represents four of Chile’s top five Atlantic salmon farmers, told Fish Farming Expert’s Chilean sister site,, that producers had strengthened measures to prevent escapes and the law was one more measure in this direction.

The council said the legislation “represents progress to avoid escapes since it reinforces the preventive approach by improving standards of the structures in the farming centres and establishing penalties for the escape of salmon generated by third parties intentionally along with allowing companies to hire artisanal fishermen to contribute to the recapture efforts”.

Preventative nature

SalmonChile, which represents Chile’s other salmon producers, said: “We value several aspects of the recently approved law, since it adequately focuses on the need to prevent and penalise salmon escapes, in addition to having a strong preventive nature when penalising breaches of adequate technical cage designs.”

The president of the Magallanes Salmon Farmers’ Association, Carlos Odebret, pointed out that the requirement for more public transparency from companies about their use of antibiotics meant use of the drugs for fish “has better detail than the use in humans”.

“We hope that the information is used properly and that our competitors do not see this as an opportunity to obtain advantages,” added Odebret.

Social benefits

The legal director of environmental NGO Oceana Chile, Javiera Calisto, said: “The transparency of this data and timely access to information brings a series of social benefits. It is crucial to evaluate the management of each company, develop better public policy, encourage competition and reduce the use of antibiotics, anti-parasitics and mortalities, allowing consumers to make better decisions and carry out public scrutiny of control actions that the law entrusts to (government aquaculture agency) Sernapesca.”

The Undersecretary of Fisheries and Aquaculture, Julio Salas, said the law was a great advance for the protection of the marine ecosystem “since it allows preventing farmed salmon from preying on and transmitting pathogens to wild species, also protecting the activity of artisanal fishing”.