Salmon Expansion Accelerates in Patagonia: Financial Speculation?

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During a conference in January of this year in Coyhaique, capital of Chile’s Aysen Region, I showed the image above this article. Each orange rectangle there represents a sector in which the salmon industry has experienced modifications between January and November 2009. Each rectangle represents new salmon farming centers or, in some cases, “enlargements of production,” that are already underway and approved by the Aysen Regional Environment Commission (COREMA – Aysen). 
 
Its the first indication that an accelerated expansion of the salmon industry into Chilean Patagonia has arrived. Its triggered in part by the certainity that the Chilean Congress would approve the package of reforms to the fishing law that President Michelle Bachelet pushed through at the end of her term to allow the mortgaging of acuaculture concessions by salmon companies. All of that, as the final phase of a privatization process of the sea designed to raise from the ruins this “successful” industry. .
 
My argument is that this expansion alone is the second chapter of the "salmon farming myth," and is based on findings such as this, where they have tripled the number of salmon farming centers and/or authorized production by COREMA-Aysen in the midde of the process to privatize the sea.
 
New evidence has been collected in Coyhaique, showing the complicity of the public services with all the maneuvers of the salmon industry. Its become clear: COREMA–Aysen has participated in an expansion that will not cultivate more salmon, rather expand the maritime estates that they can mortgage or pledge to the creditor banks of the “successful” industry. That’s all it is.
 
In effect, the updating of the maps generated by the Pumalin Foundation Marine Program about the salmon farming locations in the three southern regions from January 2009 shows that in just one year (the year of the sea privatization process) the number of salmon farming centers has doubled, and in some sectors tripled in the Aysen Region, especially in the archipelago of Las Güaitecas.
 
In addition, if you compare the organic waste generated by the salmon industry between November 2009 and January 2010, production approved by COREMA–Aysen, it had doubled or tripled in just two months.  
 
In Map 1 appears the situation of salmon industry sites around Isla Cuptana (Las Güaitecas, Aysén) in January 2009, according to data from the Pumalin Foundation Marine Program. Below, each red sphere represents a salmon farming center approved by COREMA – Aysen up to that date. 
 
 
 In Map 2 we see the situation in November 2009, where the yellow spheres correspond to salmon farming centers approved by COREMA after January 2009. The overlapping of spheres shows the “enlargement of production” of the centers operating in January of that year. 
 
 
Finally, in Map 3, it shows the situation at Cuptana Island up to January 2010, where the light blue spheres correspond to the salmon farming projects approved by COREMA – Aysen between November 2009 and January 2010. 
 
 
This increasing occupaton of territory, however, is not the central problem with the salmon farming expansion, particulary in Las Güaitecas. The Cuptania Island is registered inside the National Forest Reserve of the National System of Wilderness Protection Areas (SNASPE) and as such corresponds to a territory under special protection for its biological value and biodiversity. The government’s own accountability office has stated the same in pronouncements solicited by the National Forest Corporation (CONAF) on salmon farming projects installed on the coastline of this forest reserve. However, COREMA-Aysen ignored this in its accelerated treatment of the salmon industry requests, especially during the last months of the Michelle Bachelet government.
 
Between November 2009 and January 2010, the COREMA–Aysen approved salmon production around Cuptana Island increased from 16,330 tons per year to 37,207 tons per year as shown in the graphs 1 and 2, using data from the companies themselves as reported in their Environmental Impact Declarations. 
 
 
Applying organic contamination standards from scientific literature to this doubling of salmon production in just a little less than two months and the increase in feed given to the captive fish, you obtain the magnitudes of organic material waste generated by salmon farming centers indicated here (see DBO7).
 
The graphs 1 and 2 show that the salmon organic discharges, expressed in human population units, in other words, transforming the amount of salmon waste from the salmon farming centers into the equivalent waste generated by people, has increased from the equivalent of a 490,000 population in November 2009 to the equivalent of 1 million people in January 2010 – that is incredibly ten times the population of the entire region.
 
All of that in just one sector theoretically in a territory under official protection of the state: Cuptana Island of Las Güaitecas Forest Reserve, a place where the capacity of the marine aquatic environment to tolerate these discharges is also unknown.
 
In conclusion, the only justification for the recent irresponsible actions of the COREMA–Aysen of the Bachelet government is that there exists among their members the conviction that they are never going to cultivate salmon in these centers. Rather, giving a greater surface area to intensive salmon farming is really the way chosen by the government to increase the amount of marine territory the industry can use as collateral with transnational private banks, with the goal being to gain more funds to help the salmon businessmen finance their tickets to return home.