Fernando Villarroel at the ESA Aysén trade fair.

Salmon farming is compatible with protected areas, says Mowi Chile boss

Villarroel wants clarity from Santiago over policy


The managing director of Mowi’s operations in Chile has expressed a wish for clarity about the future of salmon farms in the country’s many protected areas after mixed messages from the Government.

Fernando Villarroel is keen to develop the Norwegian company’s sites in the Aysén region but maintains a concern regarding some announcements made by the Government in Santiago about removing salmon concessions from all protected areas.

According to Protected Planet website, Chile has 248 protected areas covering 21.05% of the country’s land and inland waters, and 41.35% of its marine and coastal area. These include 20 forest reserves, 13 marine and coastal protected areas, 11 marine parks, five marine reserves, 40 national parks, 26 national reserves, 18 natural monuments, 88 nature sanctuaries, and the Parque Nacional.

Changed objectives

Speaking to Fish Farming Expert’s Chilean sister site, Salmonexpert.cl, Villarroel said: “What the Government has repeatedly said is that their project does not affect the existing concessions, and we as an industry hope that they fulfil that promise made. We are concerned about what will happen to protected areas, which sometimes change their conservation object, as has happened in the Aysén region in the case of forest reserves.

“Hard work is also being done on the management plans for these protected areas, but there is no clarity on what the requirements and potential impacts will be for the salmon industry. We are concerned that the ability to improve the conditions of farm sites may be limited.”

Villarroel, who was speaking during a visit to the ESA Aysén trade fair organised by Salmonexpert, added: “We are convinced that through relocations or micro-relocations of salmon centres, farming conditions could be improved, and thus moderately advance regional production in Aysén.

“We want to see how the Government will approach the discussion and the way in which we will be included as an industry in it. We are convinced that salmon farming and safeguarding protected areas are compatible, it all depends on the object of conservation.”

Technical committee

He believes there must be a technical committee that delivers a proposal related to conservation objects in protected areas which must then be approved by parliament.

Chile’s environment minister Maisa Rojas has claimed that all salmon in Chile are exotic and invasive species, so must be removed from protected areas.

Villarroel, whose job also gives him ultimate responsibility for Mowi Canada West’s operations in British Columbia, said: “The minister has a conceptual error: in Chile the Atlantic salmon is an exotic but non-invasive species, it has not been able to establish itself anywhere in the Pacific, neither in the southern hemisphere nor in the northern hemisphere.”