sábado, 7 de marzo de 2009

Salmon Farming and Artisan Fishery (XIII)

By Héctor Kol
Salmon Farming Programme
Gremial Association of the Artisan Fishermen of Aysén (AGO)
February, 2009.
e-mail: kolhector2@gmail.com
Photos: Carlos Gutiérrez, Patagonia Press, Chile. (e-mail: arteluz@gmail.com)

“We want to count with a private institutionalism of revision and monitoring and, eventually, with private supervision. We consider this to be a necessary tool for the future growth of the industry…”
Rodrigo Infante, General Manager of Salmon-Chile Agency.
(“El Llanquihue” Newspaper, June 7, 2007).

In September, 2007, just 3 months after MARINE HARVEST-Chile (Branch of PANFISH, Norway) admitted that the massive salmon deaths registered by their production centres located in the Chauques Islands (X Region of the Lakes) were due to the ISA Virus, César Barros, the eccentric President of the advertising agency Salmon-Chile, assured the Newspaper “La Estrella de Chiloé”, that the viral event was already under control: “…no new centres carrying the disease have been detected, there have been no further infections”.

The press note was not surprisingly titled “Virus ISA outbreak did not provoke serious damage” [1].

Time and nature (which cannot be controlled by the net of influences spread out by Salmon-Chile) have taken care of disproving, once again, César Barros’s sayings and the mentioned newspaper.

During last January (2009), images of thousands of putrid salmons floating in the interior of net-cages or inside nets on the corridors of the farming centre “Repollal” (Photo 1), belonging to the company AQUACHILE, in Melinka (XI Region of Aysén), started going around the world showing those who still consume Chilean salmon that the so called “successful” industry was nothing but a floating corpse.

Only a week before the spreading of these images, Mr Mark Buscaglia, representing Salmon-Chile in Aysén, declared to the “El Divisadero” Newspaper that “Salmon farms deserve respect and attention…”[2]

The thousands of rotten salmons that AQUACHILE was keeping inside their installations in the Repollal Centre in Melinka, infringing all current environmental norms, generated a biological, chemic and possibly bacteriological contamination that spread through hundreds of square kilometres in the localities of Repollal Alto and Bajo, located 9 kilometres from Melinka. The local weed gatherers have been forced to stop their working affairs for fear of getting infected in the same sea waters that used to give them their daily sustenance. Today, these weed gatherers, in a letter addressed to the Regional authority of Aysén, requested for help in food supplies for 23 families that have been left without a chance to work, thanks to the very “respectful” attitude that AQUACHILE has shown towards them:

“… The reason why we cannot work is the pollution generated by the salmon company. The only working source we have is the farming of seaweed and nowadays it is impossible to work because of the contamination in the water..”

(Letter written by Ms. Lidia Chiguay, President of the Development of Repollal Bajo Committee, addressed to Mr. Selim Carrasco, Regional Authority of Aysén. January 23, 2009.)

Artisan fishermen from the south of Chile have constantly expressed, and with more emphasis since the year 2005, that the salmon industry is INCOMPATIBLE with the artisan fishery. It was thus stated in October 2006, before the Fishing and Aquiculture Committee of the Chamber of Deputies, presided at that time by Mr. Patricio Vallespín (Catholic Democrat) and more recently pointed out by the Gremial Association of Artisan Fisherman of Aysén, before the Environmental Commission of the Chamber of Senators, on January 13, 2009.

In fact, because of a fanciful interpretation of the Law on Fishing and Aquiculture dating from the year 1991, the artisan fishermen from the south of the country have been forced to share the marine territory that the same law reserves for their own and only exploitation (the country’s “interior waters”). This sharing has had to be with an industry that daily sheds hundreds of tons of artificial food in the water to feed their cultivated fish. The food that is thrown in the water is full of antibiotics, pesticides and colorants in amounts and concentrations that are not limited by the Chilean current law. On top of that, they also shed thousands of litters of disinfectant and antifouling paint, toxic for marine environment, like DELTAMETRINA pesticide and VIRKÓN-S disinfectant, just to name a few examples.

That is to say that only because to the south of the parallel 42º, South latitude, the Chilean State is a Salmon-Farm State, the artisan fishermen have been forced to share territory with an industry that poisons the resources and pollutes the waters.
This, in existence of a law dictated to the north of that “orange frontier”, that reserves those same waters for artisan fishery exploitation. [3]

The extreme permissiveness of the Chilean State towards this industry is outstanding. Apart from being charged 7 miserable pesos (0.011 US Dollars) per square meter of sea water that they use in their concessions[4], they are allowed to use unlimited amounts of antibiotics on their intense salmon farming, to the point where only one of the salmon farming centres operating in the south of Chile is capable of administrating up to three times the amount of medication that the whole of the Norwegian industry consumes.

On December 2008, the Gremial Association of Artisan Fishermen of Aysén filed a complaint before the Contraloría Regional de Aysén (supervising organ of the State) against the Regional Commission for Environment (COREMA-Aysén), in regards to the approval of an enlargement project for a salmon farming centre called “Punta Ganso”, belonging to the Chilean company LOS FIORDOS.

The main argument of this complaint was the enormous amount of antibiotics that were going to be consumed, estimated from what was declared by the same company. In this way, COREMA, having approved the production of 4.500 annual tons of salmon, had accepted the LOS FIORDOS company to use, only in that centre, between 1,5 y 4,3 tons of antibiotics per year, that is to say, between 2 and 7 times the amount of antibiotics that the whole Norwegian industry registers every year (600 kilos per year). [5]

This irrational consumption of antibiotics permitted by the Chilean State implies that 70% of this unconceivable amount of medication, being administered dissolved in the food (“vía oral”), is injected on a daily basis to the sea environment. The problem is that the medication becomes available to be consumed not only by the wild fauna in the sea (the one that the artisan fishery exploits), but also lies in the bottom of the ocean and accumulates, profoundly disturbing the recycling function of the organic matter that is carried out by the bacteria in the sediment.[6]
In other words, for each ton of antibiotics that is supplied through the food of the cultivated salmon, around 700 kilos are directly incorporated in the marine environment.

If you add that to the 600 or 700 grams of organic matter that are generated by each kilogram of commercial food (dry pellets) fed to the farmed salmons[7], you obtain a fatal combination for the aquatic systems: their eutrophication. This means that there is an over exposure of nutrients which produces the collapse of its capacity to absorb and recycle materials, process that ends up destroying all possibility of life in the sea.

Because of this, in various points of the X Region of the Lakes, public services have confirmed the presence of anaerobic sediments (complete lack of oxygen in the water of interface) and this has led them to deny several solicitudes to enlarge production. In fact, during the year 2006, the COREMA of the X Region rejected 50% of the solicitudes, most of them after confirming the deterioration of the marine sediment below the net cages of the salmon farms [8].

The Interior Sea of Chiloé, one of the 10 systems of “interior seas” that exist in the world, has nowadays clear signs of environmental deterioration, as a consequence of the environmental laws that have allowed the salmon industry to become a Massive Destruction Weapon.

In the Reloncaví Estuary, in Calbuco and in Dalcahue (Chiloé Island), salmon farming centres have presented environmental reports, elaborated by the same companies, were the condition of deterioration of the marine sediment has been stated. The eutrophication of the lakes inside the Chiloé Island, like the Natri and the Tarahuín Lakes, has been reported since the late ´90s… and net-cages are still operating there.

The Reñihué Fjord (Continental Chiloé, X Region) is already showing a progressive deterioration of its environmental condition. There is total lack of oxygen in the first three centimetres of depth, and an advance loss of its biological diversity, assimilating, in this way, to the terminal condition of the Pillán Fjord, located in the Reñihué sack, were marine life has practically disappeared. [9]

In a report that has yet to be published, the Austral University of Chile has confirmed the same level of deterioration in the Reloncaví Estuary. This place has had intensive salmon farming for the past 20 years, and in a study elaborated by the academic Sandor Muslow, several of the samples taken from the sediment have been qualified in condition of “environmental stress.”[10]

In the Reloncaví Estuary, the Foundation Oceana-Chile confirmed the presence of antibiotics in samples of wild fish that are exploited by the artisan fishery [11]. Sea bass, “cabrillas”, sardines and “pejerreyes” have been eating the medicated pellets that are fed to the farmed salmons. This means that the traditionally “organic” production of artisan fishery, that does not use medications, pesticide nor anti-fouling paint, has become as artificial as the intensive salmon production, and it may even be vectoring the chemic contamination that is generated by the salmon industry.

The destruction of the natural banks of resources in the shores that surround the Interior Sea of Chiloé, has been reported by the artisan fishery since the mid 90´s. The State has not listened and instead has continued to authorize the installation of salmon farming net-cages over the natural banks of benthonic resources, going against the law that reserves this waters to the artisan fishery. Their excuse to commit this illicit is that the term “natural bank” IS NOT DEFINED BY LAW.

The destruction has been almost total in the natural banks of Continental and Insular Chiloé, mainly because of the organic matter that is shed in them (excrement and un-eaten food for salmons).

Nevertheless, the situation that is now taking place in the localities of Repollal Alto and Repollal Bajo, near Melinka, is the clearest demonstration of the INCOMPATIBILITY existing between artisan fishery and intensive salmon farming.

Just one of the hundreds of salmon farming centres that still survive the ISA virus epidemic has led to the destruction of hundreds of square kilometres of natural banks of benthonic resources that were exploited by the artisan fishery, being the daily sustenance of the families living there.

The Photo 2 and Photo 3 show the death of the benthonic resources (sea urchins, crabs, clams, seaweed and mussels) that the AGO (Association of Artisan Fisherman from Aysén) found in the west coast of Repollal Alto, two nautical miles away from the Repollal Centre, belonging to AQUACHILE salmon farm company.

In Photes 4 and 5, taken in the opposite coast, a similar death of benthonic resources is shown (mainly mussels). This place is located half a nautical mile away from the AQUACHILE salmon farm. The same company that brags about being the third world producer of salmon and trout.

Nothing has survived the chemic contamination that has been generated by the sanitary crisis caused by AQUACHILE in a production centre that was used for weeks as a floating dump site for salmon corpses.

None other industry is operating near the place, no one can take the blame for the destruction that is being caused; Salmon-Chile has no way to cover up one of their associated companies, neither do SERNAPESCA (National Fishing Service) or COREMA-Aysén (Regional Commission of Environment).

The evidence is there for all to see. Thousands of dead specimens of our benthonic resources, the base of the sustenance of a whole culture, is the proof that intensive salmon farming and our artisan fishing are incompatible. Intensive salmon farming is toxic. This should also say something to the Environmental Non Governmental Organizations that are still trying to make “sustainable” an industry that generates a salmon that is the result of a chemic reaction, instead of an animal production.

And it is to this toxic industry that our Democratic State wants to give away the interior waters that are reserved by law for the Artisan Fishery. This is an industry financed by hundreds of thousands of dollars taken out from public funds, even “non-returnable funds” given out by the generous CORFO (Production Foment Corporation); this is the industry that Senator Escalona and Deputy Galilea want to save, even if that means that the Chilean sea will have to be mortgaged in favour of the Private Banks… and put in the hands of foreign capital.

When the AGO expressed, before the Environmental Commission of the Senate, presided at that time by the Senator Nelson Ávila, that their duty for this year was to achieve the eradication of this toxic industry from their marine territory, Mr Jorge Chocair, Undersecretary for Fishing, asked the Association to have “large and long-term vision” and to consider the thousands of employments that are generated by the salmon farming industry… We already know WHO is paying the wages to the salmon workers and WHO will not pay the documents of settlement when the layoffs increase… Those will surely not be the owners of the salmon companies, but all Chileans, as they have been paying the base-salary of the workers of an industry that is not even capable of affording that.

We have never stopped having “large and long-term vision” when dealing with this issue. And that is why we have won radial space and written press in the parliamentary commissions, and especially in the national and international public opinion. We have managed all this without having to invest in propaganda nor organize international seminars (afforded by the State, as well).
We don’t need an “Artisan Fishery Group” in the Congress in order to be heard there, nor to compete with the “Salmon Group” that actually exists.

If anyone has taken care of this issue seriously, it has been the Artisan Fishermen. Public services keep on giving concessions to the industry, in spite of the environmental damage, of the deaths of dozen of workers and of the daily illegalities that the industry commits. This is the Chilean symbol industry of the country’s image and all Chileans have been financing it, even though the benefits are only for the exporters: Only 2 kilometres away from the locality of Melinka, there is no connection with the rest of the world, no potable water or electricity. No development.

If having “large and long-term vision” means to play blind, deaf and mute (and all at the same time, like what happens with the public services, their Directors and Undersecretaries), of course Jorge Chocair is right: we don’t have “large and long-term vision” and we are glad about it. We would never look the other way when faced with the discrimination of pregnant women, nor would we be using carcinogenic pesticides to get rid of the lice on our production. We don’t want to force our people to set sail in dangerous bad weather conditions nor would we force our divers to go as far as 50 meters of depth.

It wasn’t the Artisan Fishery that, during the year 2006, was subjected to parliamentary investigation for bad labour and environmental practices. It was the Salmon Farm Industry.

We are not interested in being the country image of a State that is set on smashing the marine territory into pieces. We are satisfied with being the Free People of the Open Sea, that don’t speak English but that cohabit every day harmonically with Nature, the same Nature that, in the eyes of a “large and long-term vision” of the State and its services, is being destroyed by an agonic industry that has never justified its presence on a marine territory that has been reserved BY LAW for the Artisan Fishery.

From that same sea that forged us as a culture and from which we have lived for millenniums, they will have to leave. With or without “large and long-term vision” we will get rid of an industry that has become a threat, a weapon of Massive Destruction, capable of provoking the catastrophes that are now suffered in Repollal, Melinka.

Héctor Kol
Salmon Farming Programme
Gremial Association of the Artisan Fishermen of Aysén (AGO)
Melinka, Region of Aysén, February, 2009.

[1] “La Estrella de Chiloé” Newspaper. September 26, 2007.
[2] “El Divisadero” Newspaper. December 24, 2008.
[3] Law on Fish and Aquiculture, 1991. 47 article: a strip of territorial sea measuring five nautical miles from the normal base line, starting from the north of the country to the 41º28,6' parallel southern latitude, and around oceanic islands, will be reserved for the exploitation of the artisan fishery.
[4] See Héctor Kol, December, 2008: “Mar chileno Austral: P’a los regalones”. Available in http://www.patagonjournal.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=140%3Acomentario-invitado-mar-chileno-austral-pa-los-regalones&catid=46%3Anoticias&Itemid=85&lang=es

[5] AGO, 2008: complaint presented before the Contraloría Regional de Aysén, against COREMA-Aysén for having passed the enlargement project of the farming centre “Punta Ganso”, Canal Puyuhuapi, Puerto Cisne, Aysén Region.

[6]Austin, B.; 1993: “ Environmental Issues in the control of bacterial diseases of farmed fish”. In: Environment and aquaculture in developing countries. Edited by RSV Pullin, H. Rosenthal and J.L. Maclean. Int. Center for Living Aq. Res. Man. (ICLARM). 1993, pp 237-251.

[7] Bergheim, A. and Sivertsen, A., 1981: “Oxygen consuming properties of effluents from fish farms”. Aquaculture 22 (1981): 185-187. See also: Bergheim, A. and T. Asgard, 1994: “Waste production from Aquaculture”. In: Aquaculture and water resources management. D.J. Baird; M. Beveridge, L. Kelly and J. Muir Editors. 1994.

[8] Ricardo Norambuena, Undersecretary of the Fishing Department. “El Llanquihue” Newspaper. January 4, 2007.

[9] Mulsow, S.; Krieger, Y. Y Kennedy, R.; 2006: Sediment profile imaging (SPI) and micro-electrode technologies in impact assessment studies: Example from two fiords in Southern Chile used for fish farming. Journal of Marine System, 62 (2006): 152-163.
[10] Mulsow, S. (Universidad Austral de Chile), 2008. Progress Report, Estuario del Reloncaví.
[11] Fortt, A., 2007: “Use and abuse of antibiotics in salmon farming”. OCEANA-Chile Foundation, Document 23, January 2007.

PHOTO 1.- Floating corpses of salmon inside cages of Repollal fish farm (AQUACHILE, Melinka). Photo: Carlos Gutiérrez, Patagonia Press.

PHOTO 2.- Repollal Alto Community, Eastern Border. Die of Benthonic resources. January 23, 2009. (Photo: carlos Gutiérrez, Patagonia Press).
PHOTO 3.- Repollal Alto Communitty. Die of Benthonic Resources. January 23, 2009. (Photo: Carlos Gutiérrez, Patagonia Press).

PHOTO 4.- Repollal Alto Community. Western Border. Die of mussels. January 29, 2009

PHOTO 5.- Repollal Alto, Western Border. Die of mussels and others benthonic resources. January 29, 2009